While I was visiting a friend in Vancouver, I found myself walking in East Hastings, known as one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Canada.
A young woman in her late 20’s or possibly older but life on the streets immensely aged her, caught my attention. I automatically assumed she was a crackhead looking for her next fix and she should be in a shelter looking to better her life.
But something – maybe it was the inner Lisa Ling in me – made me stop to ask how she ended up on the streets.
Charlie* was sexually abused by her stepfather throughout her childhood and on her 14th birthday, she ran away and never looked back. Sometimes, she went hungry for days or spent nights on a sidewalk grate to stay warm. But those were luxuries compared to being tormented at home.
She started hanging out with street kids and got hooked on heroin which eventually led to her contracting HIV. Charlie is aware of the women shelter but chooses to stay on the streets where she feels most comfortable and know her friends will be there if she’s ever in trouble.
Now, anytime I see a homeless person, I pass judgment and give a bit of spare change.
There is one goal that I want you to consider developing or cultivating and if it is already ingrained in you then consider sharing with others.
I feel like this is an Oprah moment minus the car giveaways and millions of dollars.
Are you ready??
BE MORE COMPASSIONATE
Being empathetic and accepting of others is not an easy mindset to change and takes conscious effort. With anything, this daily practice will eventually be an inherent part of your life.
Here are four ways to show and be compassionate towards yourself, loved ones and even strangers:
In order to be sympathetic, you’ll have to understand what the other person is going through and that includes listen without interrupting, being distracted by other thoughts or offer unsolicited advice.
We are all guilty of criticizing and turning our nose up when we see someone or something that isn’t considered “normal.” Social media has become a playground for criticizing with keyboard warriors looking for any opportunity to smack talk and troll someone online. Since you don’t have all or any information on someone’s situation, refrain from making assumptions.
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama
Be kind and gentle to yourself especially when you are hurting or frustrated. After my chat with Charlie, I hated myself for thinking so negatively and felt helpless that I couldn’t do more. That was the impetus to volunteer at the homeless shelter which is the perfect segway to…
The best way to show compassion is through community involvement. My volunteering resume includes Big Sister to a young girl whose parents were going through a divorce, sit on the Board of my industry professional association and plan activities for children at the homeless shelter … just to name a few. It’s true what they say that you receive more than what you give.
Can you instill more compassion toward others? And if you’re already fostering compassion, what advice can you share?
*name has been changed to protect her identity