I hear the phone ring and hope it’s Tommy. Weekend mornings are his favorite time to call.
It’s Tommy all right, but this time it’s not Mayor Tommy calling to complain that I haven’t been paying my bills. Neither is this imaginative little boy calling from his isolated cabin with no Internet access, or trying to track down the dishonest person in the office.
In fact, Tommy’s not calling to play at all. “I’ve been reading about house fire after house fire on the Internet,” he says. “A family of four died in a house fire.”
How terrible! “Let’s follow all the safety rules,” I say.
“But I think they were sleeping,” answers Tommy. “Maybe the alarm wasn’t working.”
I agree. We talk about fire safety, and I tell him that most people die from the smoke, not the fire, although that’s still terrible.
Then I remind him about the fire at my mother’s nursing home. “Even though those were very bad boys that started the fire, everyone got out–all the cats and dogs, workers and old people.”
This story has thrilled Tommy and Tina since they were very small.
But Tommy’s still sad. “What about the fishies?”
I say I don’t think they were allowed to have fish in that place.
When he hangs up, I ponder the gift of compassion–that which makes us sad when everything is right in our own lives. Who but God could give such a gift? And yet, I believe it’s incumbent upon us to nurture it. We must model compassion, and give children opportunities to reach out to those who are suffering, inconvenient as it may be for us at the time.
In my experience, young children tend to be equally concerned for animals and for people. Some ask, “With so many hungry and hurting people in the world, why should we care about cats and dogs?”
But Henry Bergh, who founded the ASPCA, also spearheaded the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the U.S.
Let us celebrate and foster the gift of compassion wherever we find it, and in doing so help to make this world a kinder, gentler place.
“But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion . . . ” (Luke 10:33)