I travel a lot for work. I work as a motivational speaker in the education system. When I'm not in a school, I'm usually in an airport, on a plane, or in a shuttle bus, or I'm exploring a new city during my off-hours. And during my travels, when I intentionally stop and watch the world around me, beautiful things happen.
Take for example, the time I was in Chicago. In a crowd of tourists and pedestrians, I was standing quietly on the steps outside of the Art Institute when I saw a lonely homeless man sitting against a lamp post. True to Chi-town form, it was a windy, chilly day. Facing the elements, this man sat there in his tattered clothing looking cold and defeated. His cardboard sign was face down on the ground.
A feeling of sadness welled up inside of me, but I just stood there, an observer of his brokenness. Prior to that moment, I saw several other homeless folk around the city and didn't stop to notice them. But for some reason this guy caught my attention. Though I stood there staring, I did nothing to help him.
A few minutes later, a college student came walking down the sidewalk. He had a messenger bag slung across his chest, trendy zip-up jacket, dark denim, and sporty kicks. By purposeful strides, I assumed he was headed to class, but he did something strange. He stopped and noticed the homeless man too.
He then went over and knelt down in front of him. In one fluid motion he took off his jacket and wrapped it around the man. By now, several people were watching this beautiful expression of kindness take place. The man gratefully took the jacket and slipped his arms through the sleeves, no longer a victim to the cold.
The older gentleman stood up and embraced the college student in a warm hug. The crowd of people fell silent. It was as if the whole thing happened in slow motion. A wall of tears formed in my eyes and with one blink they all streamed down my face.
The college student went on his way having no idea the mark that his actions left on me. It serves as a reminder that compassion begs us to act.
That moment happened 12 years ago, but it is etched in my heart as though it were yesterday.
Our world is a broken one, indeed. It seems as though tragedy and heartache are just one headline away. But there is a living breathing compassion within each one of us. And sure, its amazing to see small acts of compassion unfold right in front of you, restoring new hope for a better and brighter humanity.
However, I don't want to just sit back, cross my fingers, and hope that someone else steps up to make a difference.
I want to get in the game.
How we respond to the needs of those around us will ultimately determine the kind of impact we leave on this world.
And maybe the first few steps toward the idea of a more compassionate world looks like this... living with an open heart; lead to act by that deep sense of empathy. Lending with an open hand, (clenching our fists limits how we can be used in this world), and leading with an open face, aka- smile. Though it can be but a simple gesture, it connects us with others and spreads joy.
Get in the game and perhaps another young bystander will be witness to your act and he or she will be inspired to get in the game as well.
Colleen Kirk is an activist, public speaker, model, and actress. She lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, and absolutely loves connecting with people. We met Colleen earlier in 2016 and fell in love with her spirit, enthusiasm, and love for others. We cannot wait to hear her speak about growing a capacity for compassion in our next Gathering!