Compassion Has the Voice of Yoda

I feel a bit ironic right now.  I decided, today, that I was going to write about compassion.  I do some work, find just the right pictures, and then I came home from work.  Today, the kids have a snow day thanks to inches of ice left on the roads.  However, teachers were called in to do planning, grading, etc.  Before I left, the Boy was told that he was in charge of his sister and their 10 year old cousin who has been staying with us during the snow days.  I left.  The Husband left for work.  I come home to find out that the Boy also left to go sledding and play Nerf Wars.

The Boy is now in the punishment zone.


Unhappy Boy crying 14 years ago.

And I feel guilty because I love the Boy who is a wonderful young man but has a tendency to think with his impulses and not with his brain.

What?  Sledding and Nerf Wars combined?  What’re those high-pitched, squealy voices I hear in the background?  Must be the whine of the heater….Give me a second to grab my Nerf gun, sled, and coat!

Yeah..I was feeling pretty furious upon coming home to two little girls in charge of the house.  Fortunately, the Husband came home sick so the little girls were not inhabiting the house by themselves.  Ironically, just after I got home but well before I would normally return home…the Boy also came home.

I was not feeling very compassionate.

Nor was the Husband…whose compassion range is far smaller than mine…

Now the Boy has chores to do without the usual allowance/compensation that would usually accompany said chores.

So as he is going sheepishly around the house, straightening up messes, scrubbing the toilets, and sniffing back random tears, my heart starts to ache.  The Boy is sad. And I caused the sadness.

Damn that mother-compassion instinct to make the naughty-Boy happy again. We talk.  He makes me feel guilty.  I squash that guilt because I really didn’t do anything wrong.  He mopes, makes himself look like a depressed duck, gets off the couch, and returns to the haphazard cleaning that he is barely doing.

And I feel even more guilt because the Boy is really looking sad now.

Even though I am eating much healthier, I know that we have two chocolate chip cookies left. And a small bit of frosting from when I made the family cupcakes.  Now, a small bit of chocolate frosting smeared between two leftover chocolate cookies make for a lovely treat.

Or an even lovelier I still love you even though you are being punished offering.  I even gave him the bigger half.  And an extra smudge of frosting.  But he still has to clean the house…without allowance.  But at least I found a way to show him a eensy-weensy smidge of compassion.

About two and a half years ago, my mother-in-law and I saw the Dalai Lama speak at a neighboring university.  It was an incredible experience.  First of all, I love my mother-in-law.  No comma-buts included.  I just love her.  From the moment she met me, she has been gracious and accepting and loving.  She never judges me for how I treat her son.  She doesn’t judge me for how I am raising my children.  When the Husband and I were going through some pretty terrible points in our marriage, she was the one who swooped in and took the kids so we could go to marital counseling (eventually Lauren who had no clue and was actually wondering how I had the perfect left took on that job).  The M-i-L is awesome.  So I was thrilled that she came with me to hear the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama can not speak English worth a bean.  I really don’t remember what he said other than that women really don’t need to wear a lot of make up and that people just need to love one another.  What I remember, though, is his laugh.  He sounded like Yoda.  When the Dalai Lama chuckled, he sounded just like Yoda did when he would laugh at his own jokes with Luke in the background.

The man who is the living vestige of compassion sounds just like Yoda…only with better word placement.  That is amazing.

But the person who truly stood out to me as humble, compassionate love was the Dalai Lama’s interpreter.  I think I feel a little bit in love with that man that day.  No, not that kind of love you dirty-minded people.  I love my Husband and always will.  After twenty-years together, I wouldn’t leave Pat for the Dalai Lama…or his interpreter.

But the interpreter was a man of patient love.  He stood next to the Dalai Lama during the speech portion of the talk (philosophy students were invited to ask questions afterwards…it really was amazing) and listened with his entire being.  The interpreter literally leaned forward the entire time the Dalai Lama was speaking, even though they couldn’t have been more than twelve inches apart and the entire arena was drop-dead silent and the Dalai Lama was also speaking into a microphone.  With every ounce of his spirit, the interpreter was listening to everything the Dalai Lama was saying, even though he had probably heard this speech before.  His hands were folded behind his back and, again, he was slightly tilted forward, as though he had just said something like, “Excuse me?  I can’t hear you” and was waiting for the Dalai Lama to say everything again.

At one point, the Dalai Lama couldn’t figure out how to say something and he turned to his faithful interpreter and said one word, something for translate (this was done several times so I figured out that word).  Then, the Dalai Lama said a string of maybe five words.  For a moment, everything was breathlessly quiet and then, suddenly, the interpreter spoke for the Dalai Lama.  Lasting close to thirty seconds, maybe a bit longer, the interpreter, who knew exactly what the Dalai Lama was trying to say but didn’t have the English-language-knowledge to speak it, spoke with eloquence.  Ten words were transformed and knitted into sentences of complexity and loving articulation.  To me, this was compassion.  As the Dalai Lama sat on a cushioned couch with a small bag of possessions, the interpreter sat bolt-upright on a plain, hard, wooden chair and spoke for the man he loved with his entire being.

Once more, I think I fell a little bit in love that day.  Not with the man.  But with his compassion.

Yearly, I teach  9/11 and especially the stories of the World Trade Center.  Pat thinks I am obsessed with 9/11.  I would agree, but that is a post for another day.

On 9/11, in the World Trade Center, two men were on the landing of the 27th floor (God help me if I am wrong about the floor…I’m sorry if my memory is wrong).  One of them, wheelchair bound due to a tragic diving accident, was Ed Beyea.  Standing beside him was his best friend, Abe Zelmanowitz.  Ed couldn’t evacuate because the elevators were inoperable and, for some reason, wasn’t able to get to an evacuchair (I really don’t know the entire story and wish to give no mis-information.  I respect these men’s memories too much and want to show respect to them and their families).  In the book, 102 Minutes, the writers document how one of the last things Abe said as people encouraged him to leave was, “I’m staying with my friend.”

Abe and Ed

At the 9/11 memorial, Ed’s and Abe’s names will forever be close to one another.


Much like Frank De Martini who freed people trapped just below the impact zone in the north tower.  Or how he peeled open elevators at the 78th floor to help people escape.

frank de martini

Another one of my heroes, Frank De Martini. I aspire to have his courage and selflessness.


On a day known for its saturation with evil, compassion was there.  Compassion saved thousands of lives.

So maybe I’m a bad mother who sends dual-messages of “You’re punished” but “Have a chocolate chip cookie sammich.”  But, in the end, my son is a man of compassion.  And compassion always wins.

Just ask Yoda.

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