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The beginning of compassion

I've often thought that April 1 would make a much more logical New Year's Day than January 1. It's spring, things are starting to grow, it's full of promise and the sense of beginning.... I guess, it would have to be October 1 on the other side of the planet, but I'm just wishing, so I would wish for that too.

That said, it's April and with a new page on my calendar this morning, I got a new quote to contemplate for the month:

A compassionate person sees himself or herself in every being. With the ability to view reality from many viewpoints, we can overcome all viewpoints and act compassionately in each situation. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Imagine. Seeing yourself in every being. Imagine seeing yourself in the five-year-old having a tantrum. How would that really feel? See yourself in the heroin addict about to put a needle in her arm. The homeless vet standing with a cardboard sign at the end of the thruway exit ramp, asking for your dollar or spare change. I can conjure up all sorts of images of hard-luck stories. Or maybe you prefer glamorous ones -- you're about to accept your first Grammy, you've been nominated for a Nobel prize.

But I think that those extremes, those situations that are far removed from your reality (and I hope these are) are too facile to rise to the challenge. They're really just too hard to genuinely imagine, good or bad. At least, I suspect it's too hard in the sense of truly seeing yourself in that person. So, what about your neighbor? Or the person you work with? Could be someone on the same commute every morning that you nod and say hello to. Maybe someone similar in age and lifestyle, someone you think you know. Just stop for a moment, and really try to see yourself in her or him. See your self, your humanity, your worries and hopes in that person. See your challenges and imagine theirs. Think of your dreams and wonder, really wonder for a few moments, "What are their dreams? Are they just like mine?"

See that person doing what you are doing -- feeling worried or nervous or ashamed or expectant; trying harder; keeping secrets; hoping for better; praying for the good outcome; coping with life. See yourself IN them. See YOU. That's you.

That's you.

And that's the beginning of compassion.

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