Category Archives: #1000Speak

Thursday photo prompt: Flame #writephoto #1000Speak #FlashFiction

This flash fiction was written in response to Sue Vincent’s Thursday photo prompt. and because my post is all about random acts of kindness, I’ve also added #1000Speak  

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Today’s photo: Flame. Use the image below to create a post on your own blog… poetry, prose, humour… light or dark, whatever you choose, by noon (GMT)  Wednesday 15th February and link back to this post with a pingback to Sue’s blog.

Here’s my take:

flame

 

A Happy Ending?

Crouched in the doorway at the end of the alley, Nancy watched them rub their hands by the flames.

Shivering, she dragged her bare feet behind a crate. Tom took out some sausages and stabbed them with a long skewer.

She crawled behind them, drawn by the smell of food.

Bill turned. ‘Want something to eat?’

Nancy nodded eyes wide, swallowing saliva.

‘What’ve you got?’ asked Sid.

The child shook her head, raising her empty palms.

‘Get lost,’ Jack shouted.

Nancy scurried back to the doorway and lit another match.

Maybe next time her story would have a happy ending…

 

****

The picture reminded me of the Little Match Girl, the short story of the poor girl who lit the matches she couldn’t sell to warm her hands and light up her hopes and dreams, written by the Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen, in 1845. Unfortunately, the match girl didn’t have a happy ending, but who knows if Nancy will be luckier…

Let’s give Nancy’s story another go.

****

A Happy Ending

Crouched in the doorway at the end of the alley, Nancy watched them rub their hands by the flames.

Shivering, she dragged her bare feet behind a crate. Tom took out some sausages and stabbed them with a long skewer.

She crawled behind them, drawn by the smell of food.

Bill turned. ‘Want something to eat?’

Nancy nodded eyes wide, swallowing saliva.

‘What’ve you got?’ asked Sid.

The child shook her head, raising her empty palms.

‘Come here,’ beckoned Jack, ‘but just one, we’re all starving.’

Nancy nodded, grabbed a sausage and disappeared into the night.

***

Although the Little Match Girl was written in the 19th century, there are still plenty of homeless children in the world, we can’t save everyone, but we can each do our little bit to make someone’s day a little brighter.   

I saw this tweet a few days ago. It really made my day:

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 Many  anonymous people are trying to make the world a better place with small acts of kindness every day. Every little bit makes a big difference, and it’s so encouraging to read good news.

Have you read any good news lately?

 

Compassion and Happiness: A Room Without a Roof #Happiness #1000Speak

We normally think of compassion related to pain, sadness, poverty, misery, but today (I’m a day late, I mean yesterday,) is also International Day of Happiness, so I’d like to join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion and reflect upon compassion as a way of bringing some happiness to other people.

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It’s not a pleasant situation for me when I’m feeling happy and someone around me is in emotional pain. It could be a colleague, a friend, a neighbor, or a relative. Today I’d like to suggest simple strategies for making people happy, or at least less unhappy.

The satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped others is priceless, so it’s something I normally try to do, and it’s really not as hard as it seems. I’m not an expert or a psychologist, but I’ve been a teacher for over thirty years, a mother, a grandmother, a wife, and friend to many, so here are a few things I’ve learnt along the way.

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  • Listen to someone who is obviously unhappy.

You may think they don’t want to talk, or you may be too embarrassed or busy to listen, but you should make an effort to find out what’s the matter. They say a problem shared is a problem halved, and I’ve experienced it so many times myself, that the power of listening is invaluable.

Why to listen

Firstly because it lets them talk, which means verbalizing what’s happening to them, and crazy as it seems, it’s not something people do unless they talk or write about how they feel, and you’d be amazed how many people do neither. It stays bottled up inside…festering. You can’t solve a problem you don’t verbalise and analyse. Amazingly, I’ve noticed that very often, just telling someone why you’re upset is enough to feel a little better. Isn’t that worth a few minutes or half an hour of your time?

Listening 1

How to Listen

Active listening means talking as little as possible yourself and focusing on the speaker. You may need to ask a few questions to keep them engaged, but don’t be judgemental, don’t tell them what to do (unless you’re specifically asked, which mostly you won’t be), don’t give them examples of your own; it’s about them, not you. This stage is only about listening to them. Finally you can recap what they’ve said to make sure you (and especially they) have described the situation clearly.

  • Comfort them. It’s a good idea to give them some comforting words or a hug. You don’t even have to talk or say more than a few words. The power of a hug, a smile, and a few comforting words like, ‘I’m sorry you’re feeling sad,’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ is invaluable, and it only takes a few seconds.

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  • Give them ideas to cope. If theyre ready to listen you can speak now. If they’re too upset to listen to you, you might want to postpone this stage, but often, they’re in need of your input on the situation, after all, that’s why they’ve opened their hearts to you. Now it’s your turn to speak. I love this part, because there are so many simple things you can do to cheer yourself up that you forget when you’re immersed in your own sadness.

The first thing is to admit that you don’t have a solution to their problem, but you have ideas to lighten their load and help them think things through or move on with their lives.

Problems

This is where the room without a roof (from the song Happy by Farrell) comes in. when you’re unhappy the roof oppresses you and doesn’t let you see the daylight outside, so you need to do simple things to make holes in that roof until you’ve broken it completely.

One quick and easy way to cheer up is to listen to music, sing your favourite song and dance or go for a walk with your headphones. There are so many songs which cheer you up, we each have our own. These are a few of mine, depending on my mood: Happy by Farrell, anything by Bruno Mars (Uptown Funk), Black Eyed Peas (I Gotta Feeling), Madonna (I’m Breathess), or Simply Red (Jerico), Adele (Rolling in the deep). There’s no excuse with Spotify and Youtube, you can listen to almost anything free!

You can also watch your favourite film, even if it makes you cry, but better if it makes you laugh.

You can phone your special friend or relative who lives thousands of miles away, and if they’ve passed away, you can still speak to them in your mind. Try it, they’re listening to you. Tap onto them through your subconscious, see them, hear their voice, have that conversation you need to have with them. You’ll be surprised what they say.

You can write about how you feel in a diary or write some flash fiction, or plan a novel with the situation. If you don’t feel like writing a coherent text, write a lists of things you’re grateful for or things you want to do in the next few months, or a list of things to do or say in your situation.

If you’re a writer, use your negative feelings for your characters and think what they would do and how they would feel in your situation. It helps to let off steam and extrapolate.

Read a book. There are so many, from self-help to romance, suspense, historical, science fiction, whatever catches your eye. Read the blurb and ‘Look inside’ first, and if you don’t like it move on. Don’t feel like bothering to find a book? Reread your favourite novels or your favourite parts.

There are plenty of self help books out there, I’m not up to date, but I got a lot out of these books: The Flow (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), To Be and To Have (Fromm), I love all of Deepak Chopra’s books, The Prophet (Gibran), The Power of Now (Tolle) Here are a few more suggestions:

Do whatever you like, whether it’s cooking, shopping, painting, gardening, yoga, do it. Spoil yourself. Buy ingredients for your favourite meal or cake, or pay a visit to a Garden Centre…

So often in life, problems improve over time, but we need to fill that waiting time with activities that will lift our spirits. They’re like bridges taking us from one side of the river to the other.

Happy 2

  • Check up on them. Make your shoulder available for a good cry. Let them know you care. Phone up or ask them how they are. Don’t exaggerate or dramatise, just ‘morning, how are you feeling today?’ or ‘Fancy a coffee?’ is enough. You’ll know how to take it from there.

Take part in the International Day of Happiness 2016. Download your free Happiness Guidebook packed full of ideas and actions to create a happier life for you and those around you. Read other posts on Compassion and Happiness.

There’s only one pitfall: Negative people. People who are always grumpy and seem to be unhappy, but on the other hand, they thrive on complaining and playing the role of martyr or loser and try to infect you with their negativity. I know you can cope, but just in case: keep away! They’re pretty poisonous. for everyone else,

Be Happy and make someone else Happy!

Smile

Celebrating A Year of Compassion #1000Speak

I took part in the first link up of #1000Speak on February 20th 2015. The intention for that day was to get a thousand bloggers together and spread compassion around the world.

The idea evolved, and there have been monthly prompts on compassion on the 20th of every month for a whole year, and today is the anniversary of the first link-up.

In today’s celebration of compassion, our prompt is to talk about how the year has been for us as a result of taking part!

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I haven’t taken part regularly. I’ve written six posts over the past year which you can check out here on Compassion in Jane Eyre and Victorian England, on Forgiveness, Anti-bullying, and Nature and Nurture. I’ve also popped in to visit other bloggers posting on the subject, and I’ve retweeted on Twitter and Facebook. I do feel a tiny part of the movement, although I haven’t been consistent enough in my posting or interaction to feel strongly part of a group. I’ll try to take part more often this year 🙂

It has made me aware of how we can discuss compassion from different viewpoints and encourage people to write about, read about, think about and discuss compassion.

As I’ve missed some of the prompts las year, today I’d like to write about a beautiful prompt I missed in October, on LOVE.

Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

I was always told at school that two wrongs don’t make a right, and that, as Martin Luther King said, hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. I didn’t fully understand what it meant at the time. I think my Catholic upbringing might have confused me somewhat, with the ‘turn the other cheek’ philosophy, and I’m now sure that this is not the correct approach.

Turning the other cheek is a passive act, although it detracts some of the power from the aggressors, it does nothing to show them that their behaviour is unacceptable, because there is another better way to solve our problems.

If someone is being unjust or cruel, as in bullying or abuse, I am now convinced we should react actively, albeit peacefully, by telling the person we do not agree with their actions, or by showing them another way to approach the situation, and if all else fails, by making sure help is provided for those who need it.

In Martin Luther King’s case, peaceful protests, made it clear that segregation was wrong, and that it would no longer be tolerated. Turning the other cheek would have been the equivalent of accepting injustice submissively.

As a teacher, I have taken part in mediation programmes which enable students to express how they feel and negotiate peaceful ways to solve their problems. When mediation doesn’t work, and the aggressor refuses to reconsider and repair the situation, there are school rules and disciplinary measures which are enforced. I would not expect, or even allow, any child to turn the other cheek.

Similarly, when a colleague, is behaving unreasonably (and this happened recently), I suggest other ways to solve the conflict or approach the problem, which involve, listening, discussing, and negotiating solutions, which will improve the situation for all parties. What I’m not prepared to do is to ignore the situation.

We each have our own limited sphere of influence in the world, where we interact socially and professionally, and in mine, I’m not prepared to turn the other cheek, or allow anyone to turn the other cheek, because I believe #1000Speak is about speaking up because we believe in promoting compassion actively, and that means making sure compassion is discussed, and peaceful alternatives are put forward actively to make the world a better place for everyone.

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If you’d like to join in or take part, follow this link.

#1000Speak #Forgiveness

This post was written as part of #1000Speak for Compassion. Speaking for GOOD on the 20th of every month. The topic to reflect upon this month is Forgiveness.

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Forgiving and Asking for Forgiveness

All of us who have thought about forgiveness, read about it, and talked about it, know that we forgive others, not because they ask for it, or even deserve it, but because we deserve to free ourselves from the burden of hate and resentment. When we stop hating someone, they no longer have the power to hurt us.

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‘Learn the lesson and move on’. You can’t go back. You can’t change what happened, but you can forgive and move on. Notice I didn’t say forget, because if you forget you don’t learn from the experience. Although I’ve noticed that once I forgive, I tend to forget, or at least not think about what happened.

Forgive

The two most important things I’ve learnt and have made me a happier person are 1) Forgiveness and 2) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

That doesn’t mean I ignore the small stuff, it means I sort it out immediately, if I can, so it doesn’t get out of proportion. If it really doesn’t matter, I ignore it. Most of the time, if you address ‘small’ issues at once, life gets simpler. In fact, most big issues were once smaller. Don’t ket them grow!

Small stuff
Asking for Forgiveness

I’d like to combine ‘asking for Forgiveness’ and ‘Sweating the Small Stuff’, because I’d like to talk about ‘the small stuff’, the little things we do that we need to apologise for, and how to actually make sure the apology is accepted, so the event is in fact forgotten, or at least doesn’t cause us undue aggravation.

I learnt about this method in a self help book (I can’t remember which one), but it’s very useful for those little things that happen, and often cause friction between friends, colleagues, family, etc.

This is about how to say you’re sorry and ask for forgiveness for those ‘minor’ but annoying things we all do occasionally.

Three magical words: Reason, Regret, and Repair.

You need to give a reason for your improper/inconvenient action, you need to say you’re sorry, and you need to offer to make it up to the person in some way. It’s the best way to get your apology accepted.

For example, if you’ve arrived late to work, or for lunch with a friend.

Reason: I overslept / missed the bus
Regret: I’m sorry I arrived late / made you wait
Repair: Can I work overtime tomorrow to make up for it? / Buy you lunch?

The excuse would look something like this:

‘I missed the bus, and the next one took ages, I’m so sorry I made you wait. How can I make it up to you? What about I get you coffee and dessert…’

As a teacher, I always tell my students to use the same strategy. Tell the teacher your excuse, apologise, offer/ask for/negotiate a compromise.

‘I’m sorry I didn’t hand in my homework. I’ve been feeling run down / upset / unmotivated lately / had to help my mother look after my grandmother who is unwell. Could I hand in my essay next week?

If it happens with your partner.

‘I’m under a lot of pressure at work, I’m sorry if I snapped at you, It won’t happen again. Let me cook dinner for you, today.’

It’s actually harder to do than it seems. If we’re honest with ourselves, it makes us think about our reasons, and that’s not always easy. We have to apologise, and we have to offer a compromise.

It isn’t enough to just apologise, you have to make the person offended understand your reasons, and feel that you’re prepared to make an effort to change or compensate in some way, and that’s a lot!

It doesn’t always work, but it’s worth a try!

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge 15th April and #1000Speak Nature or Nurture

This 99-word Flash Fiction was written in response to this week’s prompt: Nurturing a neighborly relationship and also #1000Speak on the topic of Nature or Nurture.

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The Adult Education Centre where I work is in a low income neighbourhood with rampant unemployment and social problems. There are many families living in tiny dwellings in ugly blocks of flats trying hard to make ends meet. Social security is often not enough to cover their needs, and those closest to them, their neighbours, frequently decide to help out, as well as, or instead of, their families. The Red Cross, and many other charities and religious and volunteer organisations are also offering some relief. My schools regularly collects food for a food bank in the neighbourhood, which gives it to families in need.

I believe it is in human nature to be compassionate and help others, even though you may be struggling yourself. It’s easy to look the other way, but it’s also easy to ‘chip in’ however you can, and lend a hand to someone who needs it. The events narrated in my flash are not uncommon, in fact it was inspired by an event a colleague of mine told me about which had happened recently, and I know it is not an isolated case, there are many more generous people altruistically helping each other.

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Chipping in

‘Where are you taking that roast chicken and the cake you baked?’

‘Down to Dolores.’

‘Stop meddling. It’s none of your business.’

‘But he’s done it again.’

‘He’ll be back.’

‘Not this time. It’s been over two months.’

‘She’ll sort it out.’

‘How? She’s got three children under eight, and she’s unemployed.’

‘She can claim social security.’

‘She has. She gets 400 Euros a month and she has four mouths to feed.’

‘Do you really think we can feed four more people?’

‘Just once every two weeks. It’s our turn today. The neighbours have all decided to chip in.’

****

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Have a look at some of this weeks other stories on the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge

Look at some of the other #1000Speak stories, too by following the blog  and twitter hashtag  and facebook Page

 

Building from Bullying. #1000Speak 20 March

A Peer Mediation Project

While I was a High School teacher, I witnessed a lot of bullying. Mainly seemingly minor incidents such as: name calling, hiding or stealing personal objects, excluding by ignoring, spreading cruel gossip, etc. More recently, cyber bullying also became popular, where the same actions were performed on social media.

Although teachers are often the first to identify these events, a great deal of bullying goes unnoticed by adults, including parents, because the bullies are devious, and they have many accomplices, or people who are prepared to turn a blind eye, and even take part in the torture by watching and enjoying.

I started a peer mediation project at my school, which I’d like to share with you today, because it helped with many cases, but first, I’d like to share a piece of flash fiction on this subject, which I believe illustrates the point dramatically.

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Mary was Alone

Miss Smith wrote the five words on the blackboard: Mary was alone at home.
“Now let’s finish the story together,” she invited the students.

Mary trembled. It was happening again in broad daylight.

“Mary? Stop daydreaming. Could you give us the next line?” ordered the teacher.

How could she know the child was struggling with a recurring nightmare?

“Let’s give Mary some ideas to proceed with the story. Can I have a second line from someone else?”

Mathew put his hand up and spoke, “She saw him watching her from across the parking lot, opposite her bedroom window.”

“Sounds good. Does that help, Mary?”

She shook her head, thankful that her hair covered her tearful eyes.

“He took pictures of her as she undressed,” continued Mark.

“He shared them with his friends on Facebook,” volunteered Peter.

“Can you continue now, Mary?” asked Miss Smith.

“She’s a nervous wreck, because she can’t eat, sleep, or study.”

“Change that line for: ‘she enjoyed the attention she’d never had before’,” Luke smirked.

“How does the story end, Miss Smith?” Mary asked desperately.

“She tells her teacher, who helps her understand she’s a victim of bullying and needs help.”

“She better not, Miss. Teachers’ bedrooms have windows, too,” warned Shirley.

****

I wrote this in response to a photo prompt on today’s Flash! Friday Contest, check out the other entries here:

It is my opinion that children, including adolescents, cannot cope with bullies on their own. They need the help of understanding and experienced adults, especially teachers, and other students, too. I became interested in this topic after taking part in mediation training courses for teachers. Students at my school also took part in similar courses.

I realized we needed students in the school mediation project because students who are being bullied can be more easily identified by other students, and students can understand and relate to each other more easily and willingly than with an adult.

We established various stages:

Pre-Mediation

  • Building awareness, and making the mediators and project known to students. Mediators were allocated a room, a mail box, and information was given to the community.
  • Reception of information /cases. This could be done by means of an anonymous or identified written communication by a third party, or a personal request by someone who was experiencing it directly.

Both parties have to agree to take part in mediation.

This is the best part and the biggest drawback. You can’t force someone to take part in mediation, and I hate to admit it, but I believe that the worst cases can’t be solved by mediation, because the bully refuses to cooperate.Fortunately, once they agree to take part, 50% of the work is done.

We offered all parties involved absolute privacy in all proceedings and a reduced (or even no) reprimand if they agreed to take part and reached an agreement.

Stages to mediation:

  • Separate interviews. Peer mediators speak to each party separately about the events.
  • Joint discussion. Mediators guide a session where both parties speak in turns about (i) what has happened, (ii) how they feel about the events, and (iii) what they ask of each other.

Active listening is encouraged by asking each party to rephrase what the other has said, immediately after each intervention, to make sure they are listening and understanding each other’s feelings and motivations.

Surprisingly, we sometimes discovered that the victim was doing something, unknowingly, that the bully interpreted as an offence, or that the bully had got the wrong end of the stick. Amazingly many of the cases were, or had started as misunderstandings.

Closure. Finally, an agreement, which could be total or partial, was reached by both parties.

  • The worst scenario was that they agreed to ‘ignore’ or ‘keep away’ and not harm or provoke each other in any way.
  • The best scenario was a mutual understanding and a return to normal relations between both parts.

Post Mediation Stage

  • Students (mediators) follow-up informally to make sure the situation hasn’t worsened.
  • Students who insisted on bullying after mediation suffered harder disciplinary measures. This rarely occurred.

The only drawback is that this works with ‘reasonable’ children who suffer or indulge in ‘routine’ or simpler cases of bullying, however, more serious cases which often go beyond the school walls need much more specialized and coordinated action with families, psychologists, social workers, and even law enforcement.

I’m convinced that the vast majority of incidents of bullying in schools, which I have witnessed, are not of the complex type, and therefore can be improved with peer mediation projects.

Have you had any experience of similar projects at your schools?

Compassion in Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre was an orphan, who was brought up first by an unloving aunt, Mrs. Reed, and later at an institution for poor orphans, Lowood, before being employed as governess at Thornfield Hall.

Although Jane suffered hardships and humiliations, and found very little compassion at that time, her life was not in danger due to unbearable social circumstances until she made the decision to leave Thornfield Hall and venture into the world practically penniless, without any friends or family to turn to.

At that point in the novel, Jane Eyre’s life was in serious danger. Her life was saved thanks to the compassion and generosity of the Rivers family.

When Jane Eyre left Thornfield Hall at dawn, after discovering that Mr. Rochester was already married to Bertha Mason, she took only some bread and twenty shillings, which she spent on travelling as far away from Mr. Rochester as she could.

Jane’s life was seriously in danger, with no possibility of claiming the social benefits we are accustomed to today. In my previous post, I have already discussed some of the social injustices which were commonplace in the 19th century.

 

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St. John Rivers admits Jane to Moor House, by F. H. Townsend, 1868-1920.

 

Jane tried in vain to find employment as a servant in the villages she passed. Days later, starving, cold, exhausted, and desperate she says:

‘My strength is quite failing me,’ I said in a soliloquy. ‘I feel I cannot go much farther. Shall I be an outcast again this night? While the rain descends so, must I lay my head on the cold, drenched ground? I fear I cannot do otherwise: for who will receive me? But it will be very dreadful, with this feeling of hunger, faintness, chill, and this sense of desolation—this total prostration of hope. In all likelihood, though, I should die before morning.

She finally arrived at the door of the three Rivers siblings: St. John, a clergyman and his two sisters, Diana and Mary, who fortunately took her in out of compassion. It was in their house that Jane was finally allowed to rest in a warm bed:

I contrived to mount a staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a warm, dry bed received me. I thanked God—experienced amidst unutterable exhaustion a glow of grateful joy—and slept.

The following morning, by Jane’s bedside, Mary and Diana discuss her condition, and her desperate situation is confirmed:

‘It is very well we took her in.’
‘Yes; she would certainly have been found dead at the door in the morning had she been left out all night. I wonder what she has gone through?’
‘Strange hardships, I imagine—poor, emaciated, pallid wanderer?’

Jane admits that if it had not been for them, she would have probably died.

I owe to their (Mary and Diana) spontaneous, genuine, genial compassion as large a debt as to your (St. John) evangelical charity.’

However, the Rivers had problems of their own. Shortly after this event, the three Rivers are forced to shut up and abandon Moor House, where they had lived all their lives, because their financial situation after their father’s death was precarious. St. John took over the parsonage, and Mary and Diana had to leave their home and their town in order to find jobs far away as governesses.

Jane is procured a job at the local Parish School. Months later, when Jane is informed, through Mr. Briggs, the solicitor who interrupted the bigamous wedding farce, that she has inherited twenty thousand pounds from her deceased uncle, John Eyre, she shared it in equal parts with the Rivers. She also recovered and renovated Moor House, where the Rivers, who were her discovered to be her cousins, returned to live with her.

She received compassion and returned their compassion by sharing her inheritance with them.

In the sequel I’ve written, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Jane has grown into a socially conscious manager of the Rochester Estate, who spends a great deal of her time and money on the education and employment of poor children and orphans. I am convinced that she would have used her privileged financial and social position to help others, especially having experience much hardship herself.

Compassion cannot be taught, but it can be learnt from experience, or developed by building awareness.

Compassion in 19th Century England and Today

1000speak

Today, 20th February, bloggers are taking part in the 1000 Voices for Compassion initiative, by blogging on the topic of compassion. Have a look at #1000Speak on twitter to read more about what other bloggers are writing about compassion in our lives today.

I’ve been thinking about compassion over the last two centuries, and how the concept has evolved, and finally what it means to me in my daily life.

There was little in the way of social security in the Georgian or Victorian era. In fact, the orphans, homeless, and unemployed of the time, were in danger of losing their health and their lives, by literally dying of cold and starvation. Another option was stealing, which they often inevitably had to indulge in, and could lead them to prison or the workhouse. Another option, especially for women, was prostitution, which would most often be a protracted death sentence.

 

NPG P301(19),Charles Dickens,by (George) Herbert Watkins

Dickens at his desk, 1858, by George Herbert Watkins

 

Compassion was the only option. Families, friends, neighbours, and generous and compassionate people had to be understanding, feel empathy, and assist those in need.

There are plenty of literary examples in fiction in novels many by Charles Dickens (Bleak House, Oliver Twist), Elizabeth Gaskell (Mary Barton, North and South), and Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre).

Other international authors such as Emile Zola, Balzac, Tolstoy, and Mark Twain, were also writing novels based on social issues.

There are also history books which sadly confirm these fictional accounts such as: Ideas of Childhood in Victorian Children’s Fiction: Orphans, Outcasts and Rebels  The Workhouse  Social issues in Victorian England

Nowadays we take the welfare state for granted. The social benefits we all share in Europe, by giving into the system through our taxes, and later redistributing it back into the system, with unemployment benefits, pensions, national health system, education system, etc., have greatly improved the quality of our lives.

This does not mean the system is perfect, or that we can shrug off our responsibility by saying, ‘I pay my taxes, I don’t need to be compassionate.’

So many people in the world, even in our own, developed countries, are experiencing the harshness of the economic recession. We cannot close our eyes to the severe social deprivation and injustices happening around the world. On the other hand, we cannot solve all the world’s problems.

But we can all do something which can help to make the world a better place. If we each do a little, we’ll all do a lot. In Spain people say, if we each add a grain of sand, we’ll all build a mountain.

 

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Everyone needs to be compassionate, and everyone will be in need of compassion at some time.

The great thing about compassion is that you don’t need to go out of your way to be compassionate. It’s not something you have to do outside your daily life, because compassion is part of our lives.

I’m fortunate to be able to help many people every day in my job. I help adults who didn’t finish school, to get their secondary school-leaving certificates and learn some basic English. I also help others who have completed their Secondary education to pass their university entrance exams and improve their English, and thus their job prospects.

First I need to walk in their shoes, and then I need to help them reach their goals. None of them have had, or have, easy lives. Many are unemployed, have very low self-esteem, or serious learning difficulties.

It’s my job to teach them, but it’s my vocation to be compassionate, encouraging and caring.

We’ll all need compassion at some moment in our lives. We’ll all need a compassionate doctor, teacher, friend, colleague, etc., If we each care for those near us who need some, hopefully someone will also care for us, when our turn comes.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction: Compassion

This week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge deals with a much-needed topic: Compassion.

Charli reflects upon the meaning of compassion,  bringing up such definitions such as “sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others”. She points out that compassion unlike pity is “accompanied by an urge to help”, whereas pity “sometimes connotes slight contempt because the object is regarded as weak or inferior.”

She reminds us that “compassion is kind. It is merciful. It is loving. It is not withheld for the privileged few. It can even extend to horses and peat moss and all of life.”

She also introduces us to Rough Writers, Norah Colvin and Anne Goodwin, who bring our attention to two words that extend from compassion. Weltschmertz: “world pain” or the grief we feel at how the world keeps falling short of our expectations. Meliorism: having a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans. Anne sums up the interaction of the two words:

“Both are useful: weltschmerz enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong and meliorism driving us to try to do something about it.”

Charli concludes that this is what compassion looks like in action.

I also learned from her post about #1000Speak. It is a call for 1000 voices blogging for compassion on February 20. We are all encouraged to join in and post on compassion on our blogs and twitter accounts.

So this week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge proposes stories that reveal compassion.

February 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that demonstrates compassion. You can explore weltschmerz (enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong) and meliorism (driving us to try to do something about it) if you want to explore those specific terms. Consider posting on February 20, too.

Respond by February 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

My own reflection is about how ‘far away’ and ‘unreal’ suffering may seem to children, thanks to the mass media, video games, Internet, etc.

As a teacher, I have often been amazed at how young people living in the comfortable and cozy ‘western world’, regard how many other homeless, hungry and war-stricken children live.

You can’t teach someone to be compassionate, but you can make them aware of how other children, just like them, are suffering in other parts of the world, and hopefully, compassion will grow…

This is my 99-word contribution:

I closed the storybook.
“The writer depicts a poor, hungry, and frightened little match girl with bare head and naked feet in the snow, lighting matches to keep warm, before finally dying while sitting against a wall on the pavement.”
“That happened a long time ago, Mrs. Smith. It doesn’t happen anymore.”
I turned on the projector.
“The journalist was killed after watching a little baby’s horrific death. She saw shells, rockets and tank fire during the massacre.”
“Wars are different.”
“It’s never different. It’s the same over and over; greed, hate, violence, suffering, and worst of all…. indifference.”

 

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