I have been pondering the nature of compassion. The nature of mine I mean. I live in a country that has so many poor people while I am so comparatively rich. Walking anywhere outside involves the possibility of street beggars pulling at my shirt and heart, looking for a few pesos. How many of them really need it is hard to tell. I am pretty sure the bent over old ladies or the mothers with infants need it. There are also quite a few cripples in wheelchairs or makeshift hand-operated bicycles that could use some help. How I choose to distribute funds to them is baffling to me. What makes me give out change to one old lady and not another? It appears to be quite random, based on the whim of the moment and not on any criteria. Musicians in the street almost always get some spare change while I may walk stiffly by a destitute man dragging himself through the plaza with his hands.
I do harden my heart and keep emotional distance when they plead with me, to keep from being affected by their predicament. People viewed from a distance are fuzzy and unclear. The person is there, but the details are lacking. It is easier to give to institutions back in the States. Donating to a faceless charity affords me protection from personal contact with the recipients, even though a lot of the money is used for “administrative costs”.
When I walk the streets of the city, there is no protection from the plight of the poor except my own barriers. As I sit in my hotel room and dream up new poems or stories, I sometimes feel that these are worthless endeavors. A man in pain does not want to hear my poetry; he wants relief from his malady. A rumbling stomach drowns out the sound of the orchestra. Only when the basic needs of health and hunger are sated can the deeper paths be followed.
It is not easy to walk and carry walls at the same time. They are heavy and block the view of both good and bad. It is a relief to cast them off at times, until slowly, brick by brick, they are re-assembled by the poor holding their bricks. Maybe I’ll put in a window, or maybe I will become more generous to the hands that reach out.
Mexican Musician – By Heather Hess – All Rights Reserved
Guest Author Bio
I am an electrical engineer living temporarily in Mexico. I spend some of my free time reflecting on and writing about my life here.