Every Wednesday afternoon, I stop at Bamboo Chinese Food in Carl Junction, to pick up take out. My grandson, Dayan, and I have lunch together, then, at his house while chatting and watching episodes of whatever series we are currently on.
Today was no different. However, as I was getting back into my car, after picking up the lunches, a little scene played out nearby that caught my attention. There is a food and clothing ministry located adjacent to the restaurant. Called Helping Hands Ministries, I’ve seen the sign and storefront many, many times. However, today, for the first time, I saw the door open and a young girl, about eight years old, skipped out.
Her father was sitting in a car parked next to mine. The cute little girl swung open the car door, and exclaimed excitedly to her father, “Look Daddy!” She held up a small plastic bag as she climbed into the car. “I got everything I needed!” Her dad gave her a faint smile.
Sitting now in my car, my eyes filled with tears and my heart was pierced by the beautiful poignancy of that unexpected moment. I drove away while the father and daughter remained in the parking lot, possibly waiting for other family members to join them.
I replayed that scene over and over. The father seemed so defeated. But the little girl was happy, excited, grateful for her small sack of clothing. Her joy was real and sincere. I felt torn. I had about $20 cash in my purse. Should I go back and give the father what I had? Should I give them the Chinese food I had picked up? I felt conflicted and had no wish to offend the dad. In the end, I drove on.
Why did I see that happen? I asked aloud. What am I supposed to do? I had never seen anyone coming out of the food and clothing pantry. Why did I today, being present at that moment, to overhear what the girl said? I couldn’t get that sweet child out of my mind. Such a small sack. Such obvious delight.
Later, after leaving my grandson and showing property, my thoughts returned to that scene. When I got home I looked up the ministry. Their mission statement reads:
Carl Junction Helping Hands Ministries exists to share the Bread of Life in our community. Our goal is to help all families within the Carl Junction school district by distributing food and clothing to those in need.
A worthy mission, that I saw being carried out this afternoon. The website said that clothing donations were appreciated and could be dropped off outside their front windows.
I was still pondering my question concerning the significance of witnessing the little girl with her sack of clothing. I knew there was an importance that I was missing. Suddenly I had a hand to the forehead moment. Oh. Oh!
As I was getting ready for the day this morning, I was thinking about the spirit of compassion. More than thinking about it, I specifically expressed a desire to learn more about compassion, and to express compassion more.
Compassion – a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering. From the Latin word compati, to suffer with.
I was reminded of a scene from A Christmas Carol, in which Scrooge asks to be shown some expression of tenderness for the death of a man. He is whisked to a home where that emotion is played out. I asked to learn more about compassion, and I too was delivered to a scene being played out before me, that evoked strong compassion.
Thich Nhat Hanh says simply, “Compassion is a verb.”
I agree. My heart is full of tenderness and compassion toward that little girl and her family. And toward others who are in need. Putting action and intention with those feelings, next week, when I stop to pick up Chinese food, I will be leaving bags of children’s clothing in front of Helping Hands Ministries. And I’ll offer a cash donation, to purchase food for their pantry.
I don’t know if that child and her dad will return to the ministry. However, she inspired me to help, for her sake and for the sakes of others in need. Because of her, I am able to immediately be compassion in action.
I am humbled by today’s experience, and ever so grateful.