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The Undersea Raven of Pinkerton Depp
THE POWER OF COMPASSION
Author: Lydia Cornell
"The only response to hatred is love." - Wayne Dyer
Buddhists believe strongly that people must immerse themselves in feeling others’ pain in order to gain the compassion that heals the world. When your heart is full of love for your fellow man, you can reach out and actually change people’s lives.
One day when my son Jack was eight-years old and in third grade, he came home from school with a notice from the principal that a ten-year-old boy in our school — a fifth grader — had accidentally died overnight from a high fever. We had never met this boy or his family, but I felt the mother’s pain so deeply it shattered me. As I was reading the note, I started sobbing and couldn't stop. My own son had been home in bed all week suffering from a similar fever. I searched for the family name in the school directory to see if they had any other children, which they did: one other son in ninth grade at our local high school.
I prayed so deeply for this mother I lost all sense of time — pouring compassion out to her, holding her in my heart with a love that passes all understanding. Maybe that’s what prayer is — the invisible transfer of love to another. I mumbled any prayer I could remember, finally landing on the Lord’s Prayer, which I knew by heart.
And then my tears stopped. It was four o’clock in the afternoon. I felt an urgent need to get in my car and find this woman. All I knew was that she lived in a large apartment building a few blocks away. The car seemed to drive itself down the street, and at the end of the block, I saw an unusually tall Asian woman in a bathrobe, pacing the sidewalk, looking shell-shocked. I veered into a driveway and stopped the car. She looked at me with a depth of sadness I will never forget. “Are you Benjamin’s mother?” I asked as I stepped out of the car. At that moment something surreal happened. The woman began running toward me, and I toward her. She rushed into my arms and we just stood there in the middle of the sidewalk, holding each other. She was sobbing. Finally she looked at me and asked, “Did God send you?”
All I could say was, "I think so."
The woman was Korean-American, and explained in broken English that she had just come outside to search for her husband, who had disappeared in grief earlier that day. She asked if I would come in and look at pictures of her son. We went inside and she showed me her son’s “room,” which was just a corner of the living room that he shared with his older brother. Though this was Beverly Hills, they lived modestly in a one-bedroom apartment. She showed me Benjamin’s report card, schoolwork, baseball trophies, and his Yugioh cards — which were just like my son’s. She poured tea and told me all the wonderful things about Benjamin.
I silently asked the universe to give me the right words to say, and out of my mouth came some memories formed into words I cannot not take credit for. I told her about my precious brother Paul and how he had come to me in a vision a few days after his death. I’ll never forget this because I was driving my car and literally had to pull over and stop. On the radio they were playing the song from the Disney movie “Pocahontas” when this lyric about the Sycamore tree came on: “Who knows how high the Sycamore grows, if you cut it down you’ll never know.” This struck me because we had Paul’s memorial service beneath a giant Sycamore tree in Franklin Canyon. Overcome by grief, my head collapsed onto the steering wheel.
Now this may sound completely loony but suddenly, out of nowhere, a surge of warmth and light filled my body and I bolted upright in my seat. I have never experienced anything quite like this. I saw my brother’s face beaming at me, smiling so broadly I had never seen him like this before. It was as if he was right there talking to me, though it was an inner vision. He told me not to cry, that he'd “see me later,” and that “there is no death.” Then, he said “I love you Lydia.” This was on the third day after I had found his body after the drug overdose. I felt at peace about him from that point on.
I kept a picture of my brother Paul by my bedside, with a candle burning next to it. One morning three days after his death, my one and a half-year-old toddler Jack woke up, giggled, pointed to the picture and exclaimed, “Paul happy!” This gives me chills even now when I remember it. To this day I can’t even believe he could speak this well or even say these words — or even remember who Paul was! He had only met him a few times and most the time Paul was wearing sunglasses!
On the day we scattered his ashes at sea, before we left for the boat, three white doves alighted on our lawn, and these were not doves for hire. What is it with the number three?
As I sat with this woman, I told her that her son Benjamin was a gift that she had been blessed with for ten years — and now God needed him back home for bigger things. I told her “our children are on loan to us.” I have no idea where I got this, as I had never even thought about it that way before.
As she walked me out she said she felt a wave of peace come over her. “I was so sad before you came.” Then she said something about this being "an angel visit", and it dawned on me that we can all be angels and comforters for each other when we open up and begin to really care about each other. It’s amazing how love uses us when we make ourselves available.
Our entire school attended Benjamin’s funeral. During the eulogy, the minister read a letter written by this mother, which said: “Benjamin was a gift to us for ten years, and now God needs him back home.”
Maybe God is only to be explained through acts of human kindness, benevolence and comedy. Maybe that’s all we need to know. There are so many times I’ve received a nudge to extend myself to help someone, but out of laziness or fear, I’ve ignored the call. Often I didn’t feel equipped to help others because I was such a mess myself — and I wasn’t able to get out of my self-centered fear. But in the twelve steps there’s a saying, “The answers will come when your own house is in order.” This means that once we have eliminated our own defects of character that keep us separate from our fellow man (condemnation, judgment, fear, pride, greed, envy, etc.) we are of better use to the world.
The other day I was working on a Pirates of the Caribbean puzzle with my son. It’s ironic that at the very same time I was succeeding at putting the puzzle pieces together, my life had somehow quietly, behind my back, slipped into place, into a sort of divine alignment.
How did it happen? This journey has swept me into Hollywood and brought me to my knees. It has also uncovered immense spiritual resources I never knew I had. Sometimes I think life is a tapestry and we are underneath with the long yarn, holding on for dear life, holding onto the shreds and yards of fibers unraveling, winding, knotting chaotically — but all the time being woven into something orderly and magnificent from the other angle, from above — if we would just let go and not hold the strings so tight. We just can’t see it.
I have the profound sense that we can touch God everyday when we are loving to others, especially those who offend us and disturb us, and especially those less fortunate. Have you seen someone's face light up with just one kind word?
Why do people talk so much about whether or not God exists, when God is simply love? Who can argue with love? Kindness, unselfishness, compassion, sharing, forgiveness. Asking someone to prove God’s existence is like asking him to prove he loves his kids. How do you prove love exists except by watching it in action?
“Compassion for others is impossible when we are filled with a belief that we are separate and distinct from other human beings,” says Wayne Dyer. Love really does heal everything. But ‘faith without works is dead,” and we are all called to get out of ourselves and help each other, like the Good Samaritan. We must be peacemakers and take care of the poor, the meek, and the outcasts, the widows and orphans.
Einstein said it beautifully here: A human being is a part of the whole called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.