When Did Adults Lose The Ability For Compassion?
I remember a time when it was just kids, teenagers mostly, that lacked compassion for another human being until they matured into adulthood and had the true capacity to understand right from wrong. Then those very same adults look back over the years through dusty veils of shame, shake their heads and say, “Kids will be kids.” Then, with a bit of hope…these flawed teenagers-come-adults will have children of their own and instill upon them the obvious life-lessons they missed.
I remember being a teenager all those moons ago. While the 80s for a gay teen wasn’t all candy & hearts, it had its moments and quite a few of them grand. Like any kid I suppose, I did stupid––very stupid things. But I was lucky enough to have parents with real moral compasses built into their DNA. Not the fake kind some parents preach in the name of altruism, but never follow nor enforce. Someone needs to kick the soapbox out from under them and smack them with a hard dose of reality.
Although I did stupid, stupid things as a kid and I know you’re dying for me to tell you what things, but… Compassion was one I learned to never overlook in my thought processes. I’ll give the defining instance when I was 4 years old. My father had built me a fort alongside the garage. Solid wooden structure, fiberglass roof & walls––it even had windows & a door. I was the envy of the block.
Even The Most Empathetically Conscious Are Flawed
One afternoon, my nieces had come over for a play date. We decided that my grand fort would be a club and you had to have a special symbol on the back of your hand in order to be a member. Almost directly behind my fort on the neighboring street was the home of my best friend at the time, Andrew (Andy) and his younger brother, Mark the Shark, as we called him because he was a little terror that would tackle your leg & not let go. Many-a-day was spent in Andy’s finished basement-playroom, playing, laughing & doing the things little boys do. He shared & cared as good little friends do.
That defining day Andy slipped through the divide in the fence alongside my fort, like he’d done on many an occasion, to come play & see what mischief we could find for the day. He was surprised when he tried to open the door to the fort only to find us holding it shut.
He hollered through the window, Hey it’s Andy, lemme in! Mark the Shark is home! We said, New rules! You have to have the secret symbol on your hand to get in!
He’d asked what it was and we told him. For the life of me, I cannot remember what the symbol was and it really wasn’t important because when he came back with the correct symbol, etched in marker by his mom on the back of his hand, we had changed it to something else.
Within a matter of minutes we had changed the symbol: on purpose. He (and his mom) were good sports about it, though. They played this little game of changing symbols 3 or 4 times until she slipped through the fence for a visit. The memory is vague in my mind because we always blot out the bad things we’re ashamed of…but she wasn’t mean or anything like that––no! She was an adult and she knew the ways of children. Like a good parent (not the kind that likes to search for that soapbox) she explained how the circumstances weren’t fair and rather unkind of me to do to my friend that always shared his toys & playroom (basement). She reminded me (not my nieces whom she didn’t really know) that Andy & I were best friends and that he’d never do anything like this to me.
Again, it’s a little vague, but I do remember letting him into the fort after her talk & that day going forward our friendship fell apart. Like often many do, only the reasons weren’t from growing apart or different interests, it was because I had betrayed our friendship. In one shameless, compassionless act, I’d ruined a friendship that might have grown to last until this day.
I recently friended Andy on Facebook (I love Facebook). And I’m sure this scenario will seem familiar to you as I’m also sure it’s happened to you as well. He accepted my friendship. I liked a few of his pictures. He like a few of mine. The end.
Now, it may not have been because of the awful way I treated him when we were 4 years old, it’s probably more along the lines of I have my life…you have yours, nice to see you’re doing well… He probably doesn’t even remember the instance, but I’m sure the negative impression of my character has not been forgotten.
The moral of this story, however, is how one foolish, compassionless act on my behalf has stuck with me and negatively impacted me over the next 43 years. (THINK BEFORE YOU ACT!) It is always at the forefront of my thoughts when observing a cruel situation as in the video above. I cannot take back what I did then, no more than I can effectively apologize for it today. It was (as innocently as it seems) a hard life lesson in compassion. The positive is that I learned that lesson––very well. And as little boys go, Andy & I were true buddies, pal-o-mines right up until that sad, regrettable moment.
At what point did some of those kids I mentioned at the beginning of this post, skip the maturity process and erroneously step into adulthood as the McDonald’s Employee? I don’t know who is worse; the employee that disrespected the poor homeless man or the customers with absolutely no empathy, laughing about it in the car.
The Dali Lama said it best: Be Kind When Possible It is Always Possible…
The Moral Of The Story
No one on this planet stands taller in importance than another. (Why do so many often think the opposite?) We are all equal and deserve the same respect. The simple trick of the matter in any given situation is this––––> Before you think, act, respond or do, take a moment to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Be that person. How would you feel if you were homeless (for whatever attainable reason) and hungry, scrounging through the garbage bin at a fast-food establishment only to have the drive-thru worker taunt you with a hamburger, then throw water in your face?
How is that even remotely funny? It scares me that the people in the car, the adults, thought this was hysterical & justly deserved. We, as empathetic, compassionate human beings need to step-up our humanity game if this world has any chance. Not one person in that car protested the awful act.
Please share this post and more importantly the message. The world is a wonderful place. It can be even better, for all of us, if we embrace our flawed humanity and just be kind to one another. Even the smallest acts of kindness can be the biggest change in a person’s life.
For those of you that are still steaming over that awful video, the McDonald’s employee has since been fired, explicitly for his horrendous behavior. Read/View more about that here: FOLLOW UP VIDEO. For more reading on compassion, see what Psychologists have discovered in the Huffinton Post article.
All I have to say about that is this–––>It’s all about karma…