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.
43 thoughts on “Wise Hamster”
somehow the words you write on here I can really relate to. I know in your about blog, you weren’t sure if anyone would read or care, but I think you have an amazing gift to share with many people. my opinion
It is the act of allowing balance in nature as the world intends. Trying to force a non-natural environmental control is just as devastating as allowing the destruction of an environment. The act of understanding this concept, valuing life, and understanding that death is needed to maintain a balance in nature and still choosing to love life in its fullest, is true compassion. Excellent post. Cheered me up. Thank you.
Thank you, my pleasure 🙂
Your compassion story about the hamster is very similar to my guinea pig homecoming story…
Oh…heartbreak. This makes me feel compassion for both the little hamster and for little you. And, yes, compassion and stewardship for all creatures is the higher way of being.
So true. Very touching, very important.
A deep, hard lesson to learn so young…. but, in the larger context, a moment of importance to not only you, but all those lives, of all species, with which you come into contact for the rest of your life… obviously, the lesson was learned well….. compassion is the driving force of almost every other virtue….. another mindful, and poignant post….
Thanks for the great article above – love hamsters – used to have several growing up. Right now we have a Bichon puppy and she teaches me something every day – I love how that happens! Thanks for reading my blog – I really appreciate it!
Your thoughts often speak peace into my life. Thank you.
I’m honored, and thank you 🙂
Thank you so for sharing this heart-breaking childhood incident.
As old as we all may become…we remain as children, needing to learn the value of life…and, even, death.
Holy Moly! Thank you for following my blog, because then I followed the notification to yours, and your words just hit me like a train. I think, in this very moment in my life, I needed your words. So from the bottom of my being, thank you!
Thank you. Glad to help in any way. Best wishes
I am all for compassion, and loved this story, but in my mind you could write this exact post and replace the word compassion with empathy. I think the world could be saved in an instant, with more empathy, the ability to put yourself in another’s place and imagine what it would feel/be like to be them. Would there still be bullying if the bullier could put himself in his victims place? If everyone could FEEL the feelings of the victims of their unkindness, or theft, or killing, or religious persecution? That’s also why I don’t like hunting. I perceive animals to have feelings (at least they know fear) and I wouldn’t want to be hunted or killed. Although I am conveniently in FULL denial about the feelings of the steak in my grocers meat department 🙂
It is true, empathy and compassion go hand in hand. As for hunting, I was first taught to respect and give thanks for the land and the sustenance that it gives. Never to take more than you need was the first rule. And, no worries, most are in that same denial 😉
An excellent point. Too often we treat the rest of existence as if it is meaningless. We share the irreplicable spark of life with all living creatures, we need to respect them and act accordingly.
Well put. I think the last sentence about being a steward and not a master rang especially true for me. Too often I see how we try to dominate and control other life. Its good to put it back in perspective. While I’m sorry that such a tramatic experience caused this epiphany, I am thankful that you had enought insight to learn from this and share with the rest of the world.
Love the way you tell this story and relate it to the larger picture (or sphere) of compassion. I remember seeing a bumper sticker, “Compassion is revolution.” As you explain, we can all do one small thing to learn to be more compassionate. The more who try the better for us all. Thanks again for a great, thought-provoking post.
I am certainly not laughing. This was a wonderful, moving story of compassion, along with the lesson that nothing in life is too small to teach us. Thank you.
This is excellent! “Compassion for all life is the key to witnessing creation in all of its beauty. Learn how to be a steward, not a master.”
Very thoughtful; lessons can be learned from the most unexpected places. It doesn’t take a meditating guru trained for 50 years to teach us, if we are aware. Nice thoughts.
You had me from beginning to end. Actually, I want more! I want to hear what how this experience taught you compassion? Was it seeing the hamsters pain, or a conversation you had after the experience?
It was a combination of many factors. Feeling his pain, not simply seeing it. Realizing how fragile life is from the sensation underneath my foot. The sadness of the entire room and within myself taught me that it was ok to care about something as small as a hamster.
I hadn’t even thought of that factor. 😦
Very thoughtful article. Are you published anywhere, because I would read your work!
YES! As a nurse I get to practice compassion everyday; sometimes it comes easy sometimes I have to put effort into it. Good lessons
This is a beautiful post. Thank you!
Sometimes after reading your posts I push my chair back, lean back, put my feet up on the desk, and just let the words roll through me. The feelings, the emotions, the thoughts all flow like a gentle stream. They go over and around and through me. I love it.
Thank you for sharing your talent with all of us.
Thank you for the compliment.. And keep running my friend. I’ve done the same for many years as well.
Compassion – a much neglected action in our narcissistic world.
Beautiful post. Makes you pause and think about compassion. I like the close of the post: we do need more stewards and less masters.
Thank you for the post. Made me stop and think for a moment about my own life.
Thanks for stopping by and liking Cloudy crochet.
I love the feel of your blog and will be stopping by at regular times to have a good read.
Gosh, I think most of us can relate to that event. Whether a bird hitting the car windshield or accidentally running over a small critter, in the moment your whole body constricts tightly and you feel the pang of causing another’s death. It stays with you and you hope to never feel that way again. And the day that you do the deed and don’t feel that pang is the day you are no longer a whole person connected to the universe, but a cold, empty soul.
Thank you for this post, it was beautiful. So very true and so very, very beautiful.
Oh my, I could hear the crushing sound reading this. At least something positive came out of it.
This is exactly what I needed to read this week. I don’t know how long ago it was written, but thank you just the same. Thank you for sharing. I feel humanity is starting to lack compassion as we become disconnected from each other. Its nice for there to be a reminder, and encouragment behind it.
Thank you.. I wrote this yesterday. Glad you enjoyed it. Best wishes 🙂
My daughter had a pet rat that taught me the equality of suffering. No matter how little they cost, how small their brains, how little value they have to others, all of us suffer.