March 15th, 2014

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#860 – Dick Bernard: A “Charter for Compassion”. The “rubber hits the road”.

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

(click to enlarge)

Mastery October 2003, William front and center

Mastery October 2003, William front and center

Sometimes fragments of life intersect for all of us, and are an opportunity to relearn, or learn for the first time. Here’s a personal example. Perhaps you might think of one or more of your own….

This post begins with an e-mail ‘thread’ a week ago today, about something called the Charter for Compassion, which I’d not heard of. The entire thread, which is not too long, is here, if you wish: Charter of Compassion March 2014Rev Reference is made to a “handout on the golden rule” from Janet McTavish of Duluth area. That is here: Golden Rule – McTavish001

Life goes on.

Then came yesterday.

In the afternoon I suggested to Cathy that we make our usual Lenten trip over to the famous Lenten Friday Fish Dinner in the church basement of St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in south Minneapolis. We went, near beginning time of 4:30. Already the place was packed, and we were in group D, waiting our turn, entertained in the sanctuary by an excellent pianist.

As always, the fish dinner was a great event, the usual simple fare of such church dinners, but with all the energy a gathering of diverse people can generate, just by their presence. Each time – yesterday was no different – we “run into” people we know who, like us, just show up to be part of the community.

One leaves St. Albert’s Fish Dinner energized. It has that way about it.

But this particular day, I made a fateful choice for earlier the same afternoon. I said I was going to go over to visit William at the Nursing Home. It had been six months since our last visit – you know how these things go – and I was feeling very guilty, and not even sure that he was still there. I called his number, and there was no answer. I called the home, and “yes” he was, so at about 2 p.m. I made the half hour trip across the city, reflecting, rehearsing, how this “Prodigal Son” might reenter an important relationship….

Who is William?

I didn’t meet him till the summer of 2002, when he helped convince me to enroll in a workshop of the Mastery Foundation at an area Retreat Center. He was a nice guy, early 70s (a couple of years less than my present age), a retired Methodist minister.

I went and was enriched. There are three photos from 2002: one at the beginning, and the other two at the end of this post. (I’m at left, kneeling, in second row of the top photo.)

A year or so later, William, myself and a lady who’d been in a later workshop, met and decided to try to meet once a month just for coffee, and a tradition began which went on for a long and satisfying time. As such things go, gaps began to occur in our meetings; one or another would miss from time to time; sometimes more than a month went by. William had to stop driving, which further complicated matters, and then he ended up in the nursing home after collapsing at church one Sunday.

I went to visit him a couple of times but then, “radio silence”, till yesterday.

I’d guess, reader, you’ve “been there, done that”, sometime. As time passes, reunion becomes more and more difficult. “How can I do this?”

It is just how it is.

William was in the same room as before. His roommate had fallen right before I got to the door, and couldn’t get up. An orderly was entering the same time I did, and helped the helpless roommate.

William seemed asleep, a shadow of the man I last saw six months ago, and he was slight, then. Pictures of family were above his bed (unfortunately, behind him, not where he could see them).

One notices such things.

I went to the desk, got a piece of paper, and wrote a note, saying I’d come back. I have to admit feeling relieved that I wouldn’t have to encounter myself, to him, in person, just then.

But when I went back, he was awake, and we reconnected in the tentative and awkward way such things happen. An attendant raised the bed a bit at his request.

He’s 86 now. No dreams of ever moving to assisted living with his spouse, Fran, as they hoped would be true six months ago.

I said I had a picture of him from 2002, and he said he’d like that, “just a 4×6”, he said. It’s at the beginning of this post, you’re looking at it; I’ll give him the other two, below, as well: of him, as MC at the closing dinner that year, and of Fran and two other assistants at the workshop.

We shook hands, once, twice, and then, a third time…and I was on my way.

Compassion begins with small steps, and isn’t dramatic.

You don’t need a Charter, I guess, or a dramatic highly public Resolution to care. Compassion can be very hard, and has to be re-learned, again and again and again, one person, one action at a time. And maybe that’s why I’m writing this, today. Maybe, some day, I’ll be gifted with compassion from someone else, when I need it….

Fran (at left) and other assistants Oct 23, 2002

Fran (at left) and other assistants Oct 23, 2002

William, MC at closing dinner October 23, 2002

William, MC at closing dinner October 23, 2002

Oct 23, 2002

Oct 23, 2002