Many years ago when I worked in the construction industry, I had a laborer on my crew who used to tell me, "Everyday, when I wake up the first thought in my mind is "thank you for another day" followed by "Damn, now I gotta go to work"! I always thought that was a funny mix of gratitude and resentment but the first part stuck with me and over the years I eventually adopted the same attitude. Each morning when I wake my first thoughts are "thank you for this day" followed by a list of the people and things for which I am grateful. No matter what is going on personally or with the universe at large, I start my day with the attitude that everything is as cool as can be in a peaceful world. I did not come to this way of thinking over night but as part of a natural process of growth. I am a person who still thinks that people are basically good and believe that hatred, greed, prejudice and a host of other human defects are learned from those around us as we grow up. Yes, yes...I am not naive and I know that mental illness and just plain bad genes may play a role but again, it's not the majority. Everyone is affected by their own circumstances but again, the good qualities are there and they are either nurtured or crushed by our own life experiences.
I believe that compassion is something that is to some degree, inherent in just about everyone and it's there from childhood. When our son was younger, he would get very upset when we would pass a homeless panhandler on the street. He always wanted to know why they were out there and what we could do to help. In February, 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia was destroyed entering the atmosphere over Texas, we watched in shock as it played out over the news. Our daughter came downstairs and when told of the disaster, her first words were, "We need to pray for the Astronauts and their families. This was from a little girl, ten years old and we were just blown away. I mean, we try to follow the golden rule and do our best to be a decent example but the intensity of these feelings from our children was more than something they picked up from us. I see and hear about this kind of compassion from people every day but that never makes the "NEWS" does it?
Compassion is something that is taught and revered in every culture and religious tradition and like gravity is a universal truth. Christianity has the story of The Good Samaritan and The Golden Rule. Buddha's teachings reveal that compassion is at the heart of all of the religious principles and that it enlightenment comes from relieving the suffering of all living beings everywhere. Hindu's teach that all life is considered sacred, human life is deemed the highest form of earthly existence and compassion is one of the three main virtues. In both the Jewish and Muslim traditions the act of compassion for our fellow man is expressed as a empathy caring and "Do to others as you would have done to you". Compassion is revealed as a profound human emotion and expresses itself in altruism and all of us are on the road to Shambala.
I know this is beginning to sound way too optimistic and let me assure you that I am no Pollyanna (though some of my friends might disagree) brimming with a mindlessly optimistic attitude about anything that comes along. The "up with people" types grind on my nerves too and before we go any further, you might want to watch this video: Okay, all kidding aside now, I have been the recipient of some harsh treatment over the years. Lies, deception and betrayal from others in business, friendships and even my own family. At times I have let these setbacks dominate my attitude until I finally learned that my "attitude" is the only thing over which I have any control. One thing I FINALLY learned is that when I am helping others, I am outside myself and not consumed with my own "so-called problems". People tell me all the time that they want to help out in some way but never have the time, do not know where to start or that there is so much need, it seems overwhelming. I agree and with over thirty million people in our own country living at or below the poverty line, it seems hopeless. I cannot save the world so I do one small thing when I have the time and the funny thing is, giving back is addictive in a way because you begin to make time to help and you get something back and it before you know it, it is a habit! Find something you care about and make a small effort and you will eventually discover what works for you.
I am just one of those people who was fortunate enough to realize how privileged I have been and I am grateful. I express my gratitude by helping out now and then and jump on board when I am offered the chance to Come on up for the rising, Come on up, lay your hands in mine. When my wife and I were first talking about marriage she kept telling me "We are going to have a great life together" and though we have had some ups and downs, it's been true and these days we sometimes have to remind each other "We are having a great life together". It's wonderfully accurate and I can see clearly and remember that I need to return the favor.