Recently I was invited to participate in an event on compassion on internet. One of the Jewish participants, a certain rabbi Ariel, shared possibly the most moving story on compassion I have ever heard in my existence.
His son was a participant on a study-abroad trip to visit the notorious Nazi concentration camps in Poland where Jews were detained in the last war – and where so many died. One of his very closest friends suddenly disappeared for many hours while they were visiting one of the camps. When he came back, he was asked him where he had been. And he told Ariel’s son that he had visited an elderly Polish man who had saved his great-grandmother’s life. She and her husband had been deported to this camp during the war. The camp was divided into two sections, one for the women, one for the men. They worked on a rabbit farm which the Nazis exploited, and the supervisor of the farm was a 19-year-old Polish civilian.
At one moment the great-grandmother cut her arm and the open wound started becoming badly infected. There were of course no medicines available for the Jewish detainees and her arm swelled and it was evident that sooner or later she would die. Then the Polish supervisor did something incredible. He cut his arm and put his wound on the grandmother’s wound so that he would contract the illness, which happened very rapidly. As supervisor of the rabbit farm, he went to see the Nazis and said: “Look, I am doing good work for you, but I need medication if I am not to die. Please give me some.” So, they gave him the needed antibiotics which he hastened to share with the great- grandmother, thereby saving her life. And Rabbi Ariel concluded by saying his son’s friend had gone to visit the Polish supervisor, now 92, who lived nearby. This man, who had saved his great-grandmothers’ life, was the reason why he was there to tell the story.
In my book 365 Blessings to Heal Myself and the World, you will find the following blessing:
Deepening of My Compassion
Love in its special dimension of compassion constitutes one of the foundations of any civilized society. It is compassion that makes me sensitive to suffering, whatever form it may take. It is compassion that enlarges my heart and enables me to be sensitive to a need the other side of the planet, that enables me to recognize a brother or sister in the shoddy bum in the street or the teenage prostitute in the local bar.
May compassion ever deepen my caring for the suffering of the world and still more my desire to heal it.
May my compassion cause me to immediately embrace any suffering I become aware of, not by taking it in and suffering with the other one, but by uplifting it in thought with the inspiration of Grace and depositing it at the feet of the infinite Love which heals all.
Rather than bemoan injustice in the world or catastrophes here or there, may compassion enable me to open my purse, my hands or my heart to relieve the pain others are going through.
May my daily newspaper or TV news bulletin become my daily prayer book as I bless and reverse all the dramatic or sad events reported, knowing and feeling that behind the hypnotic material scene there is another Reality of eternal light and universal, unconditional Love awaiting all.
May my compassion embrace Your wondrous creation, from the miniscule insect to the huge blue whale, from the modest shrub to the towering sequoias or the 3,000-year-old cedars of the Sahara, from the tiny stream to the infinite ocean, for You have created them for our enjoyment and pleasure.
And finally, may my compassion be so acute and sensitive that it ultimately learns to pierce the veil of ignorance that makes me see a material world of suffering where true vision discerns only the glorious omnipresence of infinite spiritual Love and its perfect manifestation everywhere.
Perhaps, in addition to better development programs, better social services (and these are urgently needed almost everywhere) we could add a little more compassion?
It might just be the missing element our societies so badly need.