A Richer Understanding: Compassion

Michelle and I speak three 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,

Brian

James
 

James retired in 2005 after serving 21 years in the United States Army. During the latter part of his career, James' interest in personal finance was piqued based on his own experiences and observations of the way most Americans plan – or more accurately, fail to plan – for retirement and the difficulty many face in starting the process. His most valued education has been lessons learned from personal experience and through conversations with smart, savvy friends.

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