Mar(k): Travel, Hiking, and "Doing Good"

musings on our life of travel and volunteering

A note on Compassion…

with 2 comments

Anytime you see someone less fortunate than yourself, what is your reaction?  When you see a beggar, or a homeless person, or a person with disabilities; what do you do?  Do you look the other way? Do you pretend to look busy?  Do you tell yourself that you can’t help everyone?  Do you say that you already give to a registered charity, so that you have done your bit?  Obviously, these answers are different for everyone.  And the answer changes sometimes depending on where you are living, and how often you are exposed to the hardships of others.  Certainly living in the “developing world”, we regularly come across others who are less fortunate than ourselves.  And of course, many people get toughened by constantly seeing suffering, misery, etc… seemingly everywhere.

We are no different in this regard.  We do feel that we are helping others through the volunteer work that we are doing, and that we are somehow “doing our bit”.  But we still cannot remain impervious to certain situations.  One of these deals with a homeless man who is intellectually disabled.  We regularly see him on our bike commute to/from the office.  He is often seen on the side of the road, sometimes sleeping, sometimes staring vacantly into space.  Mostly other people ignore him; but we know that he somehow manages to get fed, as he has obviously been in this situation for a long time.

His situation is made more difficult by a physical condition that he has, which makes wearing trousers or anything other than a sarong style bottom a virtual impossibility.  His testicles are horribly distended / herniated.  It must be extremely painful and uncomfortable.  As he is intellectually disabled, we think he is not really aware of the social norms around clothing.  Hence, he often is not wearing anything at all.

We feel much compassion towards this man, who is not really in a situation to help himself.  We have made it our practise to give him food and water when we see him.  Depending on where he is, we will sometimes go to a nearby “chop bar” and buy him something, or perhaps a peanut or banana seller is nearby, where we can buy him a small snack.  Recently he was near our home, so we were able to package up a larger “care package” and take it to him.  Mark stayed with him, helping him to peel an orange, to open a package of biscuits.  Although he was originally afraid of us, he has come to be more comfortable now when Mark approaches, usually with something to eat.

The fact that we do not turn a blind eye to this man’s suffering was brought home to us recently.  A friend who lives nearby was coming up the road, as we were trying to help him. She expressed surprise that we would help him.  Obviously it gave her some food for thought, as she later commented to us that she had become “hardened” to the suffering, and had never thought to help him, even though she regularly saw him.  When she next saw him, she, too, gave him some peanuts.

Obviously, everyone’ reaction to the suffering of others is an individual one.  This is just one example of compassion in action.  Yes, there are many others like him out there; yes, we know our solution is not a sustainable one.  But at some point, we felt like we needed to “do something” to help and alleviate his suffering, if only by a small degree.

You might also like to check out another story – Gabriel’s story, that was published for The ADVOCATE a number of months ago…..


Written by Mar(k)

August 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Good on you guys! Every little bit of care is truly valuable.


    August 4, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    • thanks Lynne! it is true – it all makes a difference… however small….


      August 4, 2010 at 2:51 pm

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