Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / Compassion is not dead

Marjorie Spitz Rento3 Comments
  •  “Please let me get that for you.” – older woman picking up a card I dropped, even though she was sore from a workout  
  •  “I’ll hail you a taxi.” – woman on the corner of 7th Avenue and 57th Street, during rush hour.  She waited numerous traffic lights and gently put me in a cab
  • Feel better.” – multiple people who held doors, or greeted me at places of business 
  • Use this chair to put your leg up.” – guy in neighborhood coffee shop
  •  “Can I go food shopping or do anything for you?” – multiple neighbors and doormen
  • (Via note on doorstep) “Call me if I can get you something, or if you just want my dog to come over for a cuddle.” – neighbor

These are common phrases I have heard over the last few weeks.  No, I have not moved to the mid west and these are not offers of help from my family and friends (although they have offered this and much more!). 

These are quotes from strangers and acquaintances that have acted with compassion as I navigate life with a big honking brace on my leg and crutches under my armpits.

 As I shared in a previous blog, I had an unfortunate fall on the ski slopes, twisting my knee.   The results are in and I did an excellent job hurting myself!  My doctor congratulated me, having achieved the “trifecta” (torn ACL, MCL and Meniscus – plus a fractured tibia for good measure). I will be having surgery in a few weeks.

All will be fine and although I’m physically hindered from some activities for now, life moves forward and I know I will take valuable lessons from this experience.

I live in NYC – a place with a reputation for being fast, snarky and impersonal. My experience has always been the opposite, and now I can prove it.  Just reread the quotes above!

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but New Yorkers are super compassionate.  Certainly my friends and family are empathetic and helpful, but they have to be.  Busy New Yorkers, well, are busy and it would be simple for them to ignore me.  Don’t get me wrong, some do, but the majority has exhibited heroic gestures.  It may not feel heroic to you, but when you’re hobbling on crutches, navigating ice, trying not to twist your knee while walking a block to mail cards, a mailman offering to take them instead of having to walk the extra block to the mailbox is cry-worthy!

As is the taxi driver who dropped off a passenger, passed up other fares, and made a u-turn to pick me up.  His intended actions inspired his previous passenger so much that she tipped him extra. 

During the ride he shared his definition of compassion with me.  In the dictionary, compassion is defined as “the emotion that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help.”

It is the act of going out of your way to help physical, spiritual, or emotional hurts or pains of another.  As my taxi driver defined it, “compassion entails sacrifice.”  I never thought of it as a sacrifice, but there you go!

Interestingly, psychological studies show that people feel more compassion for a single victim than for multiple victims.  It talks about how compassion doesn't simply level off with more victims, but that it “plummets as the numbers increase.” 

Odd, I would think the opposite true!  Given the world’s kind reaction to tragic events like 9/11, the Tsunami in Asia, and the Earthquake in Haiti you’d think we’d be more compassionate when more people are affected.

However, the study goes on to say that the “emotional burden of many suffering victims may be too much to bear, (that people) actively curb their compassion for many victims.”

Basically, it’s a protective mechanism so one doesn’t become too overwhelmed and distraught.

In examining myself, I can relate to this theory.  It’s more personal and emotionally manageable to focus on one person’s story rather than millions.  The story of Malala, the teen shot by the Taliban, makes the issue of female education personal and real, whereas thinking about how to solve it worldwide could feel like an overwhelming proposition. 

Buying that hungry homeless person a meal (or just looking the person in the eye to acknowledge him/her as a human being).  Writing a check to a friend’s charity.  Helping a gal with a torn ACL into a cab.  These are very doable acts!  But if we experience hundreds of similar circumstances in one day, we may start to block them out. 

Solving world hunger – where do we start?  Thankfully, people like Malala make important issues achievable!

Since at MOJO H+W we’re all about making the world a happier, healthier place, one baby step at a time, we can break it down.

Amongst all of us, if we show compassion to one person a day –WOW!  Now there’s a way to make a difference.

And, compassion can be shown in the workplace too.  As my friend and Chief Compassionate Officer at The Roundtable says, “ Compassion as a business tool? Holding people accountable without being a jerk? It’s possible, it’s effective.”

So, I’m starting a “compassion corner,” and will include it at the end of future blog entries.  I will recognize your acts of compassion, whether small or big – all are meaningful!   Please share them with me via email, phone, Facebook or Twitter, and yours may be included in an upcoming blog (anonymously if you prefer).

And if you need more reasons to participate, being compassionate has shown to improve happiness, increase longevity and health, and is contagious.  So you’ll really help yourself and those closest to you in the end!

As Buddha said: “In separateness lies the world’s great misery, in compassion lies the world’s true strength.”

So let’s do this!  Compassionate behavior is alive and all around you.  Let’s help it grow.


Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™

Compassion Corner:  

Share acts of compassion you exhibit and I will include them here weekly!