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Degrees of Compassion

Oct 30, 2005

Overheard in an Auto Standing In the Sun Outside the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry:

Little girl in rags, about eight years old hops onto the side, a bunch of lilies in one brown clenched fist. Her little brother is with her.

Little Girl: Ayoh! My feet are burning!

Auto Driver: That's right- bring some more of your friends why don't you?

Little Girl: Hey-it's hot outside Brother.

Auto Driver: So buy a pair of shoes.

Little Girl: Yeah right- like you'll get me a pair

Auto Driver: You're earning aren't you?

Little Girl: Like I keep what I earn.

(They grin at each other. Shared understanding. He knows she knows he knows- How It Is. A rough-hewn compassion fills the moment- the kind that doesn't express itself in so many words the kind that understands firsthand that life is hard on the streets and that a fistful of lilies won't always fill an empty stomach. The gruff-voiced, golden-hearted kind of compassion that will give away shade to barefeet on a hot day in South India because maybe that's part of what it means to be human. She hops down holding the little boy's hand- and then without the formality of a farewell- they're gone. And I remember thinking how oddly wonderful it is that in the cold compassion can be a kind of warmth and in the heat a lapping kind of coolness around the heart)

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"Service doesn't start when you have something to give; it blossoms naturally when you have nothing left to take."

"Real privilege lies in knowing that you have enough."