This morning, I spent 2 hours with my son in a taxi in Bangkok traffic before getting him to his new school for his entrance exam. We decided to take the klong boat back instead of a taxi. A klong is a tiny canal within the city of Bangkok and a long boat on it is a commonly used mode of transportation.
After reaching our destination, we walked over the bridge hand in hand to get to the main road before we took a taxi back to our school. On the walk down the bridge, we spotted a blind man singing with a microphone to a karaoke box. He was carrying a plastic blue bucket and kept one hand inside to feel the money that he had collected. It was nearly noon and he had not collected much. He had a good voice and I thought I would pay him for entertaining us while we walked on the bridge.
I decided to give the money to my son to place in the bucket. He was reluctant at first but I encouraged him to make the man happy inside. He agreed, walked slowly to him and placed the paper note in the blue bucket watching the man feel for it.
On the way back, my son had an inquisitive look on his face... more like puzzled. He asked me why we did that. I explained to him, like I did many times before, that it is important for us to feel compassion towards the less fortunate, the people who have less than us, and who have not been as blessed as we are. He continued to ask why as he usually did and I continued to say that it always feels good to put a smile on someone's face and to help them along in their lives, especially if they did not just sit there and do nothing. I explained to him that at least this man was trying to entertain people with his singing and bring a little music into their lives and therefore, in return we give him some money to help feed him or maybe pay for his medicine or rent.
Other than the fact that we needed to feel gratitude that we had money to eat, clothe and shelter ourselves, I explained to him the importance of feeling with others as empathy is what makes us human. I tried to teach him what my parents have taught me during my childhood... they taught me by example.... I saw them giving... providing their services pro bono and I wished that my son would learn to give a part of himself and his blessings to others as well. Giving does not have to be confined to money or material things... it can be in the form of time, or a listening ear, or a supportive hand.
I hope that both my children will grow up to be compassionate people as I believe it is a fulfilling attribute.... but most importantly I hope that they would act on their compassion and not just feel it.