Most people laugh when I tell them that a hamster taught me a valuable life lesson. Yes, a furry rodent, often caged and hardly given attention one day made the happenings of the world abundantly clear for me. This was probably my first experience within the sphere of compassion.
To be compassionate is often inferred with the same meaning as having sympathy, pity or mercy. I find this definition a bit lackluster for the one quality that can indeed shift human consciousness. Compassion is much more than sympathy. It is understanding, caring and loving in the unconditional frame. Compassion is the needle on the compass of the heart.
Of course, learning to be compassionate takes time. It is not easy to cultivate, unless born into a certain culture with compassion as its key value. This wonderful trait can be grown through intuitive feeling, by involving the heartmind with all situations. One can have compassion for another human, and he can have just as much compassion for all creatures.
At the age of 8 my parents had enrolled me in a after school care program. We had games, movies, arts & crafts, a fish tank, and one day a hamster. A new girl had come to the center, and with her she brought her pet hamster from home. At the time, I was unaware of this.
As I did everyday after school, I came to the care center and walked straight to the fish tank. It was my duty to feed the fish, one that I took pride in at the time; my status laden responsibility. As I was walking, I heard the girls in the far corner giggling and laughing. I then heard one shriek and laugh at the same time.
As I approached the tank, just short of it, I felt beneath my foot a crunch, then heard the shrill of pain and agony. I looked down and saw the small furry animal writhing in pain, convulsing and bleeding. I stood by and looked down in shock, not fully comprehending what had just happened.
I knelt down and picked up the creature, still warm and tingling in the palm of my hand. Then just as quickly as it happened, all the other kids knew what happened too as they gathered around sobbing, watching me hold the poor lifeless hamster. I left early and cried for the rest of the day, wishing that I would’ve just been slightly late that day, or even just a few minutes early. Then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have happened, or at least it wouldn’t have been my foot.
As time went on I often thought of the hamster and the lesson it taught me. Even though I’ve hunted animals for food as my family has for generations, and have seen more of death in my life than I’d care to; I learned how to cultivate respect and nurture heartfelt compassion for all life that one afternoon so many years ago. All life is truly precious, and so very fragile. On the grand scale; every living organism plays a vital role in the fabric of existence, no matter how big or small it is.
Compassion for all life is the key to witnessing creation in all of its beauty. Learn how to be a steward, not a master.