At a recent retreat for our associates, Sister Janet Mallak, SSND, focused our prayer and conversations on the many aspects of compassion.
S. Janet offered this succinct explanation of compassion: love stays. When life is difficult and the storms stir and spin deep waters, we desperately look around for our family and friends. We need to know who will remain by our side, riding the rocky seas with us. It is from those faces that compassion shines like a beam of light through heavy clouds.
Because there often isn't an answer, presence is the greatest gift we can offer others. To stand with those experiencing pain and suffering, without comment or judgment, is to live in the heart of compassion. In the Gospels, Jesus doesn't promise bad things won't happen. But he does assure us that he will always be there.
Once home, I reflected on the many faces of compassion in my life. Gratitude filled my prayer as I recalled those who walked with me on my twisting and turning journey. Suddenly a furry face with whiskers came into my mind's eye. I bowed my head and smiled. The amount of love and compassion my dog exhibits every day humbled me. Even if she could master the English language, I doubt she would give quick advice or a pat answer. In her simple but profound way, she naturally lives what I work to achieve. To help integrate these lessons from my animal companion, I wrote the following poem:
Twitching nose, ever alert;
tongue, long enough to reach the bottom of any peanut butter jar;
she experiences the world
in ways far beyond my understanding.
Dedicated and dear,
she is equally motivated to
chase or snuggle,
comfort or demand.
A canine in her manners;
a queen in her drama;
a princess in her privilege;
a clown at play.
Flesh beneath fur
and a mind entirely her own,
she lays at my feet,
no matter where they wander.
Of the many pieces of wisdom S. Janet offered that weekend, this understanding of compassion is a jewel I will continue gaze at, meditating on its many facets. With my dog to guide me, I will stand steady with a loving heart.
Clipart from http://openclipart.org.