compassionIt’s amazing how television can influence us. What comes at us from that rectangle can be mind-numbing, suppressing the emotions and bringing out the worst in us, or it can also enlighten, uplift and inspire.

As I’ve said before, CBS Sunday Morning has been part of our Sunday morning ritual for many years, providing us with thought-provoking subject matter that stimulates discussions, giving us an awareness of people and events that don’t appear in the regular news cycle. This week’s show had one story that reminded me of how life-changing compassion can be and how much more I need to work on reserving judgment and being kinder. Here’s how the story unfolded:

  1. A woman goes into a neighborhood tavern to have a meal.
  2. When she starts to pay for the meal, she realizes her wallet has been stolen along with her wedding ring inside of it.
  3. Realizing that the woman is in anguish over the loss, the owner of the establishment waves the cost of the meal.
  4. Deeply troubled by the loss of his customer’s wallet and ring he looks through 3 hours of video from a camera outside the establishment, sees that the wallet had fallen on the bench outside the door and keeps searching until he sees a young thief take the money out of the wallet and toss it into the water nearby.
  5. Determined to find the wallet with the ring inside it, he hires two scuba divers to search in the water to find it.
  6. After several hours the wallet is found with the ring inside and is returned to its rightful owner.

What the proprietor did next is a lesson in compassion and how it creates solutions rather than exacerbates problems.

  1. He tracks down the young thief and finds that he is a seventeen year-old boy, estranged from his mother. He had been staying in the nearby woods, in 30 degree weather and hadn’t eaten in two days. He had stolen the wallet to buy food because he was hungry.
  2. Instead of reporting him to the police, he takes him in and makes him part of his family.
  3. Today, the young man has two jobs, lives with the tavern owner and his family, people who now love him. He and they are forever changed.

I would hope that if I were presented with the same type of situation as the saloon owner, I would investigate, the circumstances, as he did, and would reach out my hand to help rather than reach out my hand to slap a wrist. I would hope that indignity over the wrong done would not win out over the understanding that creates the love that binds us as human beings. I would hope that this story continues to remind me that compassion is always the better choice.