I once came across the following story of a couple, William Waldorf Astor and Nancy Astor:
On a stormy night, an elderly couple looking for a room stopped at a small hotel. The young clerk at the desk informed the couple that all the rooms of the hotel were booked and that not a single room was available that night because of an international conference. However, seeing their plight the young clerk decided not to let them go out in the bad weather and offered them the use of his own room. The couple was reluctant as this would cause great inconvenience to the young clerk. “Where are you going to sleep young man, if you offer your room to us?” asked the old man. “Oh, I am young and single. I can sleep in the reception area at night. I insist that you accept my offer as I cannot let you go out in this storm.” The couple were obliged to accept the offer and the next day the old man, after having expressed his gratitude, offered a handsome reward to the young man. “Please do not embarrass me with the offer of money as it is not ethical or legal for me to accept money for my room. I didn’t give my room expecting any monetary compensation. I just wanted to be of some help to you.”
This simple story of kindness really struck me and helped me to understand what compassion truly means. Compassion arises out of a pure heart that does not differentiate between human beings on any basis. It gives without expecting anything in return. Compassion is love in action. A heart filled with love feels for every being of the universe. In the above story, the elderly couple was really touched by the words of the young clerk. They realized that offering money would be an insult to such a noble act. A deserving reward would be to do something for him that would touch his heart.
Can you imagine what a different world it would be if there were more humans like the young hotel clerk? However, more often than not, we are plagued by our complexities and tendencies of greed, desires, selfishness and ignorance. We ignore the fact that with true love the world can be a happier place to live in. We may find success in the material world but that does not necessarily translate into happiness. Happiness is achieved when we look within and discover that it resides in the natural state of a loving heart.
Often when a compassionate heart touches another, it receives an act of compassion in return. In the above story, the elderly couple reciprocated the young man’s gesture by offering him the manager’s position at one of the world’s biggest hotels to show their appreciation. This may be a more material example, but it explains that kindness is returned by kindness. A compassionate heart has the power to transform any human being. In the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast is transformed into a prince only through the love of the princess.
Love teaches a human being to give everything of himself, so when a human being learns to love, he learns to give. As more and more people change in this way, a silent revolution takes place, making the world a better place to live in.
Link to the above story.