A boy was walking along a road at dawn one day, admiring the splendour of nature. Everything seemed to come alive at once, creating a painting in front of his eyes. The canvas of the sky was painted a brilliant scarlet-gold as tendrils of light struggled to inch higher, allowing his eyes to feast upon the delicacy of rolling, emerald hills.
The absence of rainfall meant no hazardous wet mud to slip on. There was no noise, just simple, blissful quiet. He soon approached a solitary man, staring into the distance.
“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”
“Why do you say that?” The man replied, his back turned. This is a challenge, the boy thought, clearly it is a beautiful day.
“Sir, the sunrise is creating a beautiful display of colours. There is no fog or rain, allowing me to see the sloping hills and, for once, I’m not slipping in foul-smelling mud. What more makes for a beautiful day?”
“Hmm. Is that so?” The boy’s eyebrows furrowed in slight frustration. Hadn’t he heard him at all?
“Yes, sir, it is,” the boy curtly replied.
“I disagree. Quite completely, in fact.” What?
“And why is that, sir?”
“Let me tell you,” the man began. “I am 64 years old, and I am blind. Every morning I long for rain, the feeling of raindrops to awaken my sense of touch. The fog becomes my blanket of comfort because I know I may not be missing out, I am not the only one with restrictions on what I see. The mud allows me to smell something aside from crisp, cold air, so I am aware that there is something there, something besides emptiness. And I take great comfort in that.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “The silence is too much for me sometimes. To overhear the conversations of chirping larks makes my day. It fills up that gaping hole I have in my soul, and which to my mind is more beautiful than any rolling hill.” The man gave a short, loud cough. “Now tell me son, without this, how can the day be beautiful?”
The boy stared at the man for a few moments, awestruck. The two shook hands, then went on their respective ways. Soon enough the boy began to miss the chirping of the birds. He longed for the touch of fog on his skin – that certain mugginess which had bothered him before. What a difference words can make.
This world is so diverse, and this story is just a small example of how we may notice diversity, but we rarely acknowledge it. When you pass someone on the street – something you do several times a day – you are walking past an individual much like you, with unique achievements, aspirations and opinions, someone to acknowledge and respect.
However, in today’s society, we often fail to think beyond ourselves. Caught up in the misconception that life is a materially motivated race, we see room for only a select few at the top. Our limited priorities make us vulnerable and so fragile that one push could scatter every intention, each aspiration into oblivion. We fail to celebrate our differences, instead making a contest out of our similarities – we must be the “best” to make it count. And in this endless and fruitless pursuit, we start to abandon the core of what makes us human. We start to abandon compassion.
Compassion is practised in so many small gestures, whether it’s holding the door open for a stranger with a smile or showing consideration towards someone you love. It is accepting that differences exist, and that they are beautiful. It is having conviction in the belief that by treating one another cordially, we are only helping each other grow. It is the act of walking in another person’s shoes and respecting their being. It is the understanding that at the root of it, we are all human and one and the same.