I was at the mission today, serving lunch once more, but today somehow it was different for me. There was the normal crush of suffering humanity, but either I was more attune or there were more extreme examples of human suffering and objects of misery, I know not, but there was a greater sense of desperation and sadness in me as I surveyed the homeless in the dining room. There is a sacredness in tears, and my thoughts drifted to the shortest verse as I felt a sense of what Christ must have felt looking out over Jerusalem.
Compassion puts one in a state of kindness: an unselfish and humble feeling which sympathy draws from us something beautiful but also something so mournful.
I noticed a young woman, early twenties, petite and with darling facial features, covered up in a warm hooded winter coat. Her hood dropped back at one point to reveal her head, which was shaved; no doubt from some disease or surgical procedure, I did not dare ask, but left to imagine the worst. I find myself strangely attached to those in need in proportion to their woes.
A regular at the mission, a man named Randy, who lives in the most distressing disguise: ravaged by disease with scars all over his half shaved head, unable to care for himself as he struggles for balance and has little left of his right mind with which to speak. His appearance and lack of hygiene is so disturbing that it puts one in a strange combination of repulsion and attraction. Words fail to describe his repugnant appearance, yet one cannot leave it.
Another middle age woman, with intermittent nonsensical laughs, followed by cries of anguish so piercing; yet I find myself hovering within the circle where my thoughts wander and fly to the center from where they come.
The scenes of man and womanhood struck down in their strength and wasting on its bed, deserted and broken beneath the burden of life, present a sight so sad; but this compassion I feel is fascinated to the spot, and lives amid the haunts it dreads.
I could easily find relief by simply stopping my ears and shutting my eyes, but if I were to do so I would cease to be an organ of humanity, and would be degraded into an instrument of selfishness, and would scandalize the name of Christ.
I wrote this with the help of Henry Beecher and James Martineau.