Amid last week’s polar vortex that froze most of the country, were heartwarming stories of people helping people.
There were police officers who made wellness checks at the homes of senior citizens and gave rides to people walking on the streets.
There was a pharmacist on a snowmobile who delivered needed prescriptions to snowed-in customers.
There were neighbors who helped neighbors, like the 82-year-old grandmother who not only ran the snow-blower in her driveway but cleared the snow for her neighbors.
There was a woman who paid for hotel rooms for 70 people living in tents in a makeshift camp near an expressway.
There were the people who placed gloves, hats, and warm clothes on a fence for people who needed them.
There were the people who provided meals and hotel accommodations for a family of nine whose apartment had neither heat nor hot water.
And I’m sure the inspirational list goes on and on.
I am a firm believer that we are here on this planet to help one another, so it warms my heart to know that there are compassionate people in the world who understand that life is hard and we need each other to overcome obstacles and meet challenges. I understand compassion to be more than kindness.
Like the Dalai Lama, I view compassion as sensitivity to the suffering of others with a commitment to do something about it. Each of us has the potential to be charitable or to be merciless. Much of what we decide to do is motivated by our own sense of “duty to others.”
As I considered this whole idea of compassion, I was drawn to the address given to a crowd of striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. the night before his assassination in 1968.
During that address (known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech), King recast the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. In evaluating why the two religious men did not stop to help the seriously injured man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, but the Good Samaritan did, King proposed: “… the first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me’? But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him’?”
I’m pretty sure that I know which question those “Good Samaritans” asked themselves, during the polar vortex. Which question do you ask yourself when you see someone in need?