A Richer Understanding: Compassion

Brian Tramuel helms this series. He lives with his wife Michelle, their children Geneva and Brian, and their Cocker Spaniel Maestro in Charlotte, NC. They, along with his two older children from a previous marriage, Davina and Aaron, provide a constant source of inspiration. Aaron lives, works and plays in Charlotte and Davina lives, works and plays in Roanoke, VA.

Michelle and I speak RS A Richer Understandingthree or four times throughout the day while I am working, mostly to check in or check on each other and at other times to discuss the moral and intellectual crisis of our time. This for her changes hourly. She understands that I am not a fan of the question, “How are you?” yet she asks every time we speak.  I’d rather her show me the baby, I don’t need the labor pains.

When I sense that she is taking the scenic route around her point, I often use the code phrase, show me the baby, to reroute her. A stranger overheard this while I was standing in line at Starbucks and thought it was the cleverest thing she had ever heard. I can’t take credit; I believe I started using it when my sister said it in conversation. I may or may not have had the same reaction as the stranger.

I’m also not a fan of talking to strangers. Often I feel that these conversations start with a stock, “How are you?” where the person has zero interest and are speaking to either make compulsory conversation or pretending to be polite so that they can ask for something (money usually) and want nothing to do with what I may actually be thinking or feeling. I realized while speaking with this woman that there are situations when I do enjoy conversations with strangers.

My expression is reserved and internal whether I am happy or sad. Strangers, at times, are able to pick up on this; maybe our body language gives it away. It makes sense as I can see the same in others. There was something in her voice and something in her eyes that told me everything was not okay, against everything that I feel I asked, “How are you?”

She was internalizing her sadness, I paid for our coffee and we talked about being sad (no family to spend Thanksgiving with) but also; peace, love, joy and thankfulness. Sometimes it (sadness) allows the space to reflect and plan.

Every now and again people can use some compassion without any attachments. Going forward, I will try to offer it when I encounter a caring stranger, it doesn’t cost anything except time or maybe a cup of coffee. I appreciate all of the genuinely, caring strangers that I’ve encountered and our compassionate interactions.

Nothing purchased can come close to the renewed sense of gratitude for having family and genuine friends.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Live Well,



Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. This is just beautiful Brian, almost made me weepy 🙂

    I often think that conversation with strangers is just going thru the motions, but every once in a while it becomes something wonderful. You just never know.

    Enjoyed your post!!

  2. This is lovely and I’m going to be stealing the line “Show me the baby!”

    I love talking to strangers, sometimes it feels good on both sides to talk to someone who doesn’t know you personally. Taking time to talk to someone can mean a world of difference to that person, but lately I’ve come to realize that I also get a lot out of it as well.

    Wonderful post as usual Mr. Tramuel!

    • Thank you for adding your voice to the discussion Ms. Nikks. I co-sign, I got a lot out of it too.

    • That is a great line. One I will likely adopt myself.

  3. Bravo.

    Compassion is something that has proven to be both good and bad for me. In the story you discussed, compassion for the stranger appeared to be a defining moment in life.

    • No doubt that compassion can take many forms and have different outcomes.

    • My thought as well, good and bad. Observing others and their ‘gratitude practice’ have helped me become more aware. Gratitude opens our heart to compassion.

      We are built to enjoy gratitude, but we have to be aware.

  4. Random acts of kindness are the best. You never know what direction they may send the person on the receiving end. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Indeed. And now is the time of year to be mindful of those facts.

    • Very true, I was able to witness how it impacted her day. I remain hopeful that it carries over for her.

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