MASHOOD asks: Can you name a few major accounts of compassion from history?
Hi MASHOOD –
You bring up an interesting point: Most of the history that gets taught to children doesn’t include much about compassion. It’s full of battles and wars and vengeance… mostly just the stuff we’re hoping to reduce in the world!
So I’ll throw in a few that I know of. But it’d be awesome if you could collect a better list than I can!
1) Saving the European Jews in World War II. This story does get told, thank goodness. When the Nazi government tried to kill off the Jews of Europe in the 1940s, many people came to their defense. Most are unknown today, but you can read about heroes like Simon Weisenthal, or even see the famous movie “Schindler’s List,” and learn about some of the things that were done to save the lives of these persecuted people.
2) The Underground Railway. This wasn’t really a railroad per se, but a network of people who worked to help slaves in the United States escape from their owners and get to freedom. As with the European situation I described above, people who had nothing personally to gain did great acts of bravery and compassion to help others, just because it was the right thing to do.
3) Charity Work. While Mother Theresa might be the most famous case in recent history, lots of people every day are doing beautiful works of charity to help the poor, downtrodden, and ill. Most are people you’ve never heard of, though some celebrities like Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Bill Gates are do amazing deeds all over the world.
4) Environmental Work. Similarly, over the years, people have done great work to protect the environment and wild animals from devastation (whether natural or man-made). Another beautiful movie about this is “Gorillas in the Mist,” though I warn you it’ll break your heart!
5) Little Acts. Smaller acts of compassion are done everywhere and every day. A young boy helps an old lady cross the street. A little girl gives a coin to a homeless man. A driver stops to let a squirrel cross the road. Or, the one that meant most to me, a human walks into a pound or shelter and buys a puppy and takes it home, and feeds and shelters it and cleans up after it, and puts up with all its biting and chewing, and gives it all the love in the world, till it grows up to an age where it can do its OWN act of compassion: giving advice to kids and parents on a website!
Yes, compassion is a glorious and beautiful thing. It has been, all through history. And it will be as long as good beings are around.
Thanks for the great question!