how to be compassionateI feel the energy of my Grandmother all the time. I see her in almost every older woman I encounter. Because of that I end up thinking of Alzheimer’s or dementia or elder care several times a day. I was taught to speak and understand a specific language and now I have the ability to hear it. I zero in on older people everywhere I go. Just a quick assessment. I can’t help it.

I bet you probably hear a unique language as well. There is something that you are honed in on in your life and instinctively you react or connect when there is a need. I call this your “zoom” – what are you zoomed in on?

I have a friend who can not drive past a person on the side of the road without stopping to see if they need help. Many times I have been in the car with a friend and been chatting away and she will spot something and start to pull over saying, “I feel like this person needs help…” I never would have noticed them.

Through observing my amazing friends I have come up with a guide that all of us can look to when we need inspiration for how to help.

8 Simple Ways To Be Compassionate

1. Take notice of elders or people with special needs:
• Once you have assisted someone in a wheelchair or walker it becomes 2nd nature to simply ask someone if they need help getting that item off the top shelf of the grocery store. If you see someone out with their caregiver see if you can help them in some way. It’s a simple, “do you need a hand?”
• Be patient.

2. Be helpful to those in need on the road:
• Not everyone will feel comfortable stopping to help a car pulled off on the side of the road but you CAN call highway patrol.
• If you see an accident or a car that looks like it has very recently been in an accident call 911. Seriously. This was a recent lesson I learned. Why assume that the person in the car can and has called for help? Why assume that someone else will call for them? If you are able to safely make the call do it.

3. Connect with parents in public:
Kelly says,” When I see a child throwing a tantrum in public I try very nicely to make kind eyes or say something nice to the parents. I have two special needs kids, and my youngest was a tantrum kid AND a runner (he seriously has no fear of wandering off alone). I’ve had too many ‘helpful’ people say mean things or give me looks when my kids act up. They aren’t being rude, [the kids] really are doing the best they can.”

4. Pick up/ clean up:
• Box of noodles in the middle of the grocery aisle? Put it back on the shelf. Clothes off the hanger in the dress shop? Rehang them.
• Take a moment and pick up trash on your street. If you have more time, offer to put the trash cart out on the curb for a neighbor who may not be able to. See an empty trash can rolling around on the street? Rescue it.

5. Bring extra supplies:
Valerie says, “Any time my child has to bring something to preschool- a pumpkin, apple, t-shirt, or whatever for a project–I always buy extra. I’ve always been so freaked out that I would be the dingbat who drops the ball on that stuff so I send extra in case some other parent accidentally forgets.”
• Think about carrying an extra snack with you in case someone at the playdate doesn’t have something. (I have totally been the Mom that didn’t bring JACK to a playdate and was so thankful to see another Mom pull out a massive bag of goldfish.)
• I also keep meaning to pack an extra hair tie in my bag because…you never know when someone might need one. I know I would go into a flop sweat if I couldn’t put my hair up.

6. Keep an ear out on the playground:
• Robin says, “I worry about the kids playing sports. If I see a dad coming down hard on his kid for missing a shot I’m all up in that kid’s grill telling him what a good game he played. I bring extra water for all the kids whose parents forget, week after week. I carry an inhaler for the kid who clearly isn’t having his asthma managed. Not just the kids I coach but all the ones I see regularly. So many of these parents– it’s like 1/3 are reliving their own youth through their kids, 1/3 use sports as an excuse to dump them off for 2hrs a week. 1/3 are awesome. I try to be an extra, caring adult in their lives, because I never had that outside person to boost me when I was a kid.”

7. Above and Beyond Kindnesses:
• Is there someone ahead of you in line fumbling for money for a purchase? If you dial in you can get a feel if this fumbling is a panic or an ambling search. A few times I have extended five dollars to the person ahead of me in line with a simple, “I believe you dropped this.” It has been accepted twice.
• Chances are several of us have worked in the food service industry (or had a roommate or friend that did) – this means that we know how frustrating it is to work for tips. If you had a waiter that did their job, and you are able to, tip them handsomely. Try your best not to take out poor service on the amount you leave for a tip.

8. Interact with/ be aware of others:
• Say hello or good morning when walking by someone on a blustery morning – or any morning for that matter.
• Hold the door open for people behind you. Teach your children how to do this.
• Compliment each other! I can’t help myself on this one. If I see someone with amazing shoes or beautiful hair the compliment flies out of my mouth.
• Help each other. See a large bit of tp on the end of someone’s shoe (or a similar oopsie appearance situation)? Take the time to let someone know. I have had a stranger on a subway in NYC tell me that I had mustard on my face and while it was incredibly embarrassing to be told I was SO THANKFUL to not walk around the rest of my day that way.

What would you add to this list?

I’m curious to know if you have something specific that you hone in or zoom in on in the world to focus your compassion. What are other ways that we can connect and help each other?

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