“Human presence is a creative and turbulent sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace”. John O'Donohue

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Compassion and Posh Yoghurt

I've just given 50p to a woman who was begging outside Sainsbury's. 

As I dropped the coin into her cup, I noticed the dark mottling on her arms, the sign of a circulatory system shot to pieces, and the cracked, sore skin around her mouth  as she smiled a thank you. 

It broke my heart. 


Half of what I had just spent on yoghurt. 

And I know she was maybe, probably, possibly begging for money for a fix. But what I saw, in the moment of dropping that small coin into her dirty cup, was not a "junkie" as I guess some would have her labelled,  but a woman, just like me. A woman, like me who, for whatever reason had become addicted. And for whatever reason, needed to beg outside the supermarket to feed herself, or feed her children, or feed her addiction. Someone at rock bottom who SMILED when I gave her half the cost of a posh yoghurt on the way from a job I love to my comfortable bed in a friend's Merchant City flat. 

I watch with sadness the news headlines and the social media comments about those who have become "other" , the scapegoats for our society's failings.   Lately it has been benefit "scroungers".  So easy to label and dismiss isn't it? When things are difficult, or perceived to be so, then there are always these easy targets for fingers to point at. And the poor and downtrodden and the marginalised are easy targets. I don't see at as such a large or difficult or indeed over-dramatic connection to make between this behaviour and the ultimate scape-goating of Nazism.

And that is what breaks my heart. That we can forget, so readily, the mistakes of our collective past. That we can equally ignore the mistakes that we continue to make. We forget that we are all human beings. And that, but for the grace of God, that person begging outside the supermarket could be me, or you. Or your child. That person is somebody's child. We judge one child as being more important than another. One person, or group of people as being more important than another. And when we judge  (and it is oh so easy to judge) when we lose our compassion, we have actually lost compassion for ourselves.

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