“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future,” wrote Nelson Mandela.
This act of kindness was truly a simple one. A fast food meal costs so little. A note is free. Its impact on this woman, however, was immense.
What’s startling in this story is not only the display of compassion. It’s the idea that a small show of empathy like this one is such a rare and remarkable thing in our world. Life is so hard.
When did we stop helping one another?
Sometimes we are touched by somebody’s pain, and we want to help. However, we refuse to acknowledge it. We are conditioned by society to turn away. We say we are too busy. We say we are too broke. We assume somebody else will help. We may even blame the needy party themselves for being in their position. The true reasons for our inaction run much deeper, however. Skepticism, cynicism, and narcissism often stop us from acting on a compassionate nature.
It’s not always the gift itself that makes the biggest impact, but the heart from which it was given. This woman needed a burger, yes, but more than that she needed encouragement. She needed kindness. She needed to know that someone, even a stranger, was in her corner. By sending the meal and note, this man validated her. He saw her trying. He saw her struggling. He saw her knocked down by cruelty. He could have turned the other way, but instead he helped her up.
Suppose you saw this scene unfold. What would you have done? Most of us would sympathize, shaking our heads. We would avert our eyes, embarrassed to have seen this emotional moment. Most of us would see the problem, but choose not to act. We do this every day.
How lucky for her that this stranger was no ordinary person. He chose to lift her up.
How many opportunities do you have to do the same?
If you open your eyes, they are everywhere. They are standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign. They are eating in a soup kitchen. They are working extra shifts to buy diapers.
You can help.
Even if you do not have a cent to your name, there is something powerful you can do. The meal he bought this woman will come and go, but his note will leave an imprint on her life. A smile and a kind word cost you nothing, and can make all the difference.
Most people avert their eyes when they see struggle. This causes undue shame and belittlement. People start to feel invisible, just when they need to be seen the most. You can help to fight this dynamic.
Smile at someone who is struggling. Lend a tired mother some encouraging words. If you have a dollar to spare, buy a burger for someone who is hungry.
You may be the only one who does.