Definition of Compassion
The author Barbara Lazear Ascher breaks down the definition of compassion whether if it’s something that a person will exhibit when confronted by dangerous situation. For example, when a beggar walks into a bakery or a food store, the store owner immediately gives that beggar some food because she fears that man may ruin the store’s image or may scare customers away. She questions in present day, this scene gets replicated in so many different parts of the country. It makes us ask: Is this compassion or fear? The answer according to the author is fear. People are difficult to show compassion spontaneously. Some of them do have genuine compassion, but by and large, no compassion.
Ascher begins her passage by describing a scene that most readers can relate to: the woman’s interaction with the homeless man on the street. Generally there are some senses of fear when in the presence of a man who know nothing about, and cannot expect anything from him at any given moment. This man stares at the children; then the mother instinctively protects her child, “ he stops before a blond baby in an Aprica stroller. The baby’s mother waits for the light to change and her hands close tighter on the stroller’s handle as she sees the man approach.” With these words, we find the author conveying a sense of fear through revealing her actions. Whereas the child also instinctively shows his fear by his action, “ The baby, weary of the unwavering stare, pulls its blanket over its head.” The author shows that a child has no inhibitions and is not afraid to show his fear, whereas the mother masks this fear through compassion. “ His eyes fix on the baby… She finds what she’s looking for and passes a folded dollar over her child’s head to the man who stand and stares.” Yet we find that the man is unaware to the nature of this reaction. “ His hands continue at his sides. He does not know his part. He does not know that the acceptance of the gift and gratitude are what makes this transaction complete.” Therefore she continues on her way, “ Bearing the dollar like a cross.” When people find someone bearing a cross generally, or making reference to God, it’s a sign of desperation or some form of protection. Thus it can be implied that the woman bears the dollar as a manner to protect herself. Now the man has not take that dollar; it could be said that this dollar symbolizes the idea of falsity that generally one may bear the cross, but may not believe in it; just as she may give money, but it is not compassionate.
Another example that Ascher offers to dissect the fear of people is a man walking into a coffee shop. “The owner of the shop, a moody French woman, emerges from the kitchen with steaming coffee in a Styroloam cup, and a small paper bag of … of what?” The man grabs his things and is off. The owner of the coffee shop is described as moody that bringing the question of kindness to light. The reason that owner does this is she is afraid of the homeless. “As he stands, the scent of stale cigarettes and urine fills the small, overheated room.” The man makes the atmosphere of the cafe become badly as he walking inside. She thinks he may ruin her store’s image or may scare customers away, and it’s not good for her business. In my opinion, Ascher’s describing of these men causes a strong influence on me. The homeless man originally walks in silently. If he barges into the cafe and demands or asks for food, I will think of him as rude and lazy, and the owner kicks him out will be accepted. And Ascher does the same to the bagger. If the bagger is white, race will not be an issue. It will be clearer that the woman offer money in pity rather than fear. Also, if the man dashes for the money, I will not receive the image that he is kind and gentle, but that he is aggressive and can cause harm. Ascher describes these men as quiet and reserved