Compassion of Our Hearts
I love Thanksgiving. I try to live my life in a spirit of gratitude. I really appreciate that we dedicate time in our lives every year to be thankful for our blessings. I am so thankful for my life. I have lived a miracle and “He didn’t have to do it. It could have been me outdoors or in jail,” and I know it. I often remember to be thankful that I am not living on a hill in Haiti. Current events make me thankful that I am not living under a building in Aleppo, Syria.
This year I am most thankful for forgiveness, for friends who “prayed me through” a very challenging transitional year, for new love and for something called s-a-b-b-a-t-i-c-a-l which I did “my way.”
Compassion in Our Lives
We all can be especially thankful for the compassion in our lives. As I look around, I am surrounded by friends who show compassion every day. I am so thankful for my sister Tonsa who takes really good care of my Mom, Mildred. My foster sisters Gina, Rendi and Virgie took great care of my foster mother Alice. They kept her for more than a decade, long after Mama could no longer speak or move. My cousin Bonita was the solid rock of compassion for my Aunt Eleanore and Uncle John.
It warms my heart to have so many friends who have done the same for their loved ones. My friend Hope dedicated her life to taking care of her parents, Lela and Ivan. Since Lela passed, Hope continues to shower compassion on Ivan. My friend Torrey showed compassion to her mother Mary for years, long after Mary forgot who Torrey was. Torrey said “she thinks I am just a nice lady who comes to visit her.”
The compassion that my friends demonstrated for their loved ones is so inspiring. Fania and Angela‘s gentleness with their mother Sallie B. was phenomenal. It has been my privilege to watch daughters like Dianne, Faye and Deborah take care of their mothers, Frances, Imogene and Irene. My friend Shirley‘s steadfast commitment to her Dad, Pops, before he died was comforting to us when Shirley suddenly passed away.
Compassion Knows No Lines
Compassion is not limited by gender. My cousin Shawn‘s commitment to his mother, Sharon, was unwavering as she battled breast cancer. How well Antwon cared for his Mother in her last days is one of the most endearing stories about him. It was my privilege to watch my friend Marshall act with total commitment to his Mother in her final years. My friends, Darryl, Douglas and Duane each showed the same compassion for their mothers in their illnesses when they needed it most. These are truly men of honor.
My friend Charles continues to honor his mother by taking care of his aunts. Bishop Macklin‘s concern for his ailing mother touches the heart of every member of our congregation. My godbrother Jay stepped up right away when my foster Mom Amy fell ill and needed 24-hour care. Jay and his wife continue to be there for Amy every day.
Compassion In Action
In law, it is often hard to remember that a law firm is a business. “Beating the drum for justice” is hard work and expensive. It is very hard to accept that we can not help everybody. But, it was compassion that moved me to help clients like John Bumphus and Abner Morgan, Deanna Freitag and Tonsa B. What I received in return for that “help” has been life-changing courage and compassion. It was compassion that led me to step off my sabbatical and go to Stuart Florida to rescue Jasmine from jail and bring her home.
In this season, I am reading “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. The painful truths of our broken justice system grieve the heart. Our criminal justice system is truly an instrument of evil. Our lack of compassion for children tried as adults and condemned to life in prison is appalling. The failure of compassion for women who ended up in abusive relationships and then prison is beyond frustrating. Our willingness to accept the death penalty regardless of a person’s guilt or innocence is profoundly disturbing. As Bishop Desmond Tutu pointed out, it’s “as if America’s soul has been put on trial.” Bryan Stevenson‘s compassionate heart is a light of hope for all of us.
In Bay Area politics, we have a rising star in Lateefah Simon. We are all so proud of her. Her life’s work is rooted in compassion. I know that her “popularity” is rooted in compassion. Many people came to know her because of her love for Kevin Weston. The battle she and Kevin fought to save his life touched all of our hearts. Our compassion for this brilliant young couple flooded Facebook. Out of compassion for them, our spirits soared. Our hearts were opened. We were united in community by compassion.
The Greatest Gift of All
As you experience this Thanksgiving, regardless of your circumstances, try to remember that the greatest gift of all is love. “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13.) I really appreciate the people in my life and our world who show compassion for others. As I move forward in my life, I pledge to more consistently practice “random acts of kindness.” Remember that your greatest legacy may be how you showed compassion for someone else.