Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Gift of Compassion

As I travelled home last night, having been to a close friends birthday, my journey was unexpectedly disrupted. As I got on to the Richmond train at Earls Court, there seemed to be a slight confusion among the passengers of the static train. I was in no major hurry to be anywhere fast as I was engrossed in a very good book. Then, suddenly, the train driver announced that the reason we weren’t moving was because the power had been turned off as there was a passenger on the tracks of platform two. My immediate reaction was to jump up and see if he was ok! Funny that I should assume it was a man after the train driver had only specified a ‘passenger’. It did in fact turn out to be a man, but there was a 50/50 chance of me guessing correctly. My sudden jump to ‘the rescue’ seemed to go misinterpreted by my fellow passengers who all then jumped up with a less concerned approach and more of a ‘are his guts hanging out?’ approach!

As there was no train on platform two, my natural reaction was to assume that the man had fallen on the tracks as opposed to having jumped to his demise. I was standing at the window to see if I could see what was going on when the man opposite me said in a very unsympathetic tone “Has he jumped on the tracks?” As I couldn’t see what was going on, I replied “He might have fallen.” To which the man said “Either that, or he’s being a total dick!”

This comment shocked me, to say the least! I sat back down and couldn’t help but wonder if everyone on the train would agree with his venomous comment? Some of the passengers seemed eager to get home and were consequently annoyed, and some just wanted to see what was going on. As there was not much that I could do, I sent the man on the tracks my compassion, wished him well and hoped that he would be safe before sticking my head in my book again – which was all I felt I could do in that moment - apart from that I found it hard to concentrate on what I was reading whilst being utterly appalled at this man’s point of view! Especially as now the man was on the phone talking to his girlfriend (how he managed to get a girlfriend is beyond me) telling her that some ‘twat’ had chucked himself on the tracks and if people ‘wanted to top themselves’ they should do it in a ‘convenient’ place! I was totally gobsmacked at how inconsiderate this man was being and how conceited he was for:

1; Thinking these thoughts in the first place!
2; Announcing it very publicly to the whole carriage!

Now, I’m no expert in the field of people killing themselves by throwing themselves in front of trains, but I do know that they do tend to do it when there’s an actual train to throw themselves in front of! And even if this man was trying to end his life, surely that’s the biggest sign that another human being is in a great deal of pain, with no available resources, and in his mind, no other option but to end it all! Where was this man’s compassion!? No matter what your views are on taking your own life, surely compassion, empathy or maybe even sympathy in some people’s cases should creep into the picture somewhere along the lines.

A million thoughts were flying around my head; how many others on the train (and on the other platforms) were feeling animosity by this man on the tracks? Annoyed/ inconvenienced / wanting to go home after a long day. How many people were thinking hostile thoughts about this man on the tracks? When collectively we all needed to be sending good vibrations of compassion and help to a man who was in desperate need of it! And really, who is anyone helping by resenting this man on the tracks? Certainly not themselves and certainly not the man! And one final poignant thought that seemed to sear itself on my brain: Would people feel differently if it was a woman on the tracks instead?

A public announcement broke my thought process and we all had to evacuate the station. Obviously, we all tried to see what was going on as we walked out, but couldn’t. The hustle and bustle of everyone leaving, the hustle and bustle of my thoughts – electricity in the air. Although I felt calm and not inconvenienced by getting home a little bit later than anticipated, I was still dumfounded by the man opposite me for hurling abuse at the man on the tracks, whom, whichever way I spun it in my mind, was in trouble, whether he had intended to be or not!

“He’s the dick if anyone is!” I thought! My feathers were so ruffled by this man, seeing the situation from his point of view was just NOT an option at that point (which now with hindsight makes me smile) As we walked into the bitter cold air, I thought “Who is he to judge that man!? He knows nothing about that man! For all he knows he could have suffered a massive loss or trauma, he could be so deeply unhappy that he couldn’t cope anymore, he might have lost his daughter, or his brother or his entire family! OR he could have simply had an accident and fallen off the platform and on to the tracks! GOD! What’s wrong with some people? Where’s the natural human compassion? Is this how everyone is nowadays? So quick to judge! Who the hell is he to judge someone he doesn’t know?” …My thoughts slowed down as I was halted by my realisation; the very thing I was upset by – I was doing myself. I was judging him! I was judging him for judging the man on the tracks.

Oh the irony!

Although I was still shocked at this man’s lack of compassion and bold opinion; so different from mine, and so unforgiving in my eyes…who was I to judge him? I didn’t know him. I didn’t know his background. Where he’d grown up or who he’d grown up with. How much compassion he’d experienced in his life, and by the sounds of his overbearing opinions, it seemed clear to me that he probably hadn’t experienced much compassion at all. After reflecting on my thoughts, I realised that I hadn’t given him any compassion! And really, that was probably what he needed the most. I mean, for someone’s natural instinct to be hurling abuse at another human being that’s in desperate need of help – WOW! I suddenly started to feel very sorry for this man. Perhaps he needed to have strong, malicious thoughts of others to feel significant and superior? And as much as his views clashed with mine, I could only feel sorry for this man. A man that clearly didn’t have much love for himself, or nurture, or compassion. Who doesn’t understand that by dismissing the man on the tracks traumatic experience, he was in fact dismissing himself. All that was left to do was to accept this man as he was and to give him as much compassion as I could offer…and also, if I’m honest – breathe a big sigh of relief when we were let back into the station and to find myself NOT on the same carriage as the man!

I’m not quite sure what happened to the man on the tracks. My guess is that they got him off, and apart from some minor injuries, he was ok. At least that is what I’d like to think happened and given the amount of time in which the whole event took place, I’d say it was unlikely that he was severely hurt!

So I guess I’d like to leave you with some questions that this experience highlighted for me.

Who have you judged recently?
In what way were they (or their actions) similar to you (or your actions)?
How can you bring more compassion into your life and give more to others around you?
Can you find a way to learn from people you ‘dislike’?
And how can they help you to have a realisation about yourself.
And how can you put your realisations into action so that you can create a more positive world for yourself?

Compassion is one of the nicest gifts we can give to ourselves and to others around us, how much compassion do you have in your life right now and how can you create more? Starting from now.

Lots of Love
Fran x