A Call for Compassion

“Could you please repair this ring? Today?” I handed the jeweler the man’s ring, and I was confident the jeweler could do the job. After all, the last time I came in to have work done, he presented his business card and said things like, “Now that I’m your jeweler” and “So glad to have you as a client.” I had faith he could help.

His eyes turned white and he heaved a sigh: “I can fix it, but it will take me at least a week.” Right then, the sadness rolled over me and I began to sob. The jeweler immediately changed his tone and asked, “What’s wrong, honey?”

“I don’t have a week,” I replied. “I am burying my father tomorrow.”

If the jeweler had known beforehand about how the doctors had cut off his ring a week earlier and how my mother deeply wished he could be buried with his ring, I am sure the jeweler would have been less brisk, more willing to consider my feelings. Yet, he had no way of knowing.

Each one of us walks around this world in various states of feeling and being, and often these states are known only to us. I remember after having a miscarriage, I still had to shop, buy gas, go to work, and be a part of this world. I wonder how many people I encountered at that time sensed a woman on the brink of collapse.

After the experience with my father’s ring, I adopted the following policy for people I encounter: Assume nothing. Don’t assume the cashier isn’t going through a messy divorce. Don’t take for granted that the person who cut in front of me at the bank isn’t going through financial distress, even if she is carrying a Coach purse.

I want to remember each and every day the hidden lives that bubble beneath the superficial contacts I have with others. This can be hard when the pizza boy serves a heaping side of scowl with the large pepperoni. It’s about letting go and not always feeling like I need to have the last word. After all, I don’t know that pizza boy’s story.

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