I went visiting over at Midtown Assistance Center last week and Executive Director Dorothy Chandler, Olympic Gold Medal Winner of the Compassion Marathon (23 years at MAC!), mentioned a volunteer who brings in REALLY GOOD snack bags. He named the snack bags for his Aunt B! I don’t know the back story on that but may Aunt B be our muse. She passed along compassion somehow! And as George Eliot wrote, “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for one another?”
Nadia says “I volunteer with another member, Lisby Ritchie, when I can. I worked in wealth management in the past so it seemed almost like penance to give my time to poverty alleviation. It really is an incredible place and I truly enjoy the time I spend there, I have met so many people from so many walks of life that were able to use a little boost to get them back on their feet. I have been blessed in so many ways and and feel compelled to do something to give back and help make someone’s world a better place, this is my something:-)”
Nadia adds, “someone asked me just this week if I can give an example of what agape love looks like and I thought of Dorothy Chandler and the way she interacts and engages with some of the scruffiest looking clients you could imagine. She does so in a way that they feel dignified enough to keep returning even if their visit is limited just to a snack pack and a conversation with her at the door:”
Dorothy says that when she gets up and is getting ready, “I think about the people who come to MAC and tears come to my eyes. Not tears of sadness but tears of joy because we are doing something that matters. MAC helps.”
How do people become compassionate? Is compassion in your DNA?
Here’s another Compassion in the DNA story from Wendy Silliman.
Wendy writes, “one of my favorite MAC stories is that Dorothy Chandler is the one who came up with the initial idea for Threads! Back in 2003, an Ad Hoc Missions Committee led by Bob Miller was exploring new missions. Our first step was to investigate existing needs around the area. I called Dorothy to get her take on current community needs. She said that although MAC had a men’s clothing closet, no one had the space to house children’s clothing. As I then called other ministries, they agreed that a children’s clothing closet would be very helpful for the area. At the same time, the results of a parish forum and survey showed that All Saints wanted to do a new mission focusing on children and at or close to our block. Thus need met desire and of course, we had to put the All Saints twist on it and make it an upscale clothing boutique where we could clothe children in need with dignity.”
I think you can also catch compassion like a good cold. I know I have caught compassion down through the years from All the Saints.
I believe that compassion is in our DNA as children of God. And yes, compassion can be taught and caught. And as Jesus laid it on us in the beatitudes, compassion is often the hard and holy lesson of one’s own personal loss.
Here is blessed Naomi Shihab Nye on Kindness, aka Compassion.
Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever. Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
One day complete justice and total mercy will kiss us into eternity. In the meantime, let us be a little strong and also be a little kind. That’s a good day’s work any day, every day.
Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. T’is the secret of life everlasting.