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Discovering Compassion

Sitting at the counter with my friend on a hot summer day, drinking my favorite chocolate milkshake, I didn’t speak up.  Life changed for me that afternoon.  I sat silently as George reached over and arrogantly took her tip and proudly slipped it into his pocket.  Right in front of me!  Maybe I was just stunned.  I don’t know, but I didn’t say anything.  I just looked.

George was the son of the guy who owned the bank in town.  He lived in the house with the pool.  He had maids and gardeners.  He got that red convertible on his 16th birthday.  He was that guy that everyone wanted to be close to but secretly resented, and he was my friend.  He liked me, so therefore I was cool and I got to ride in the front seat of that car.

He didn’t need the $1.23 tip that was left on the counter.  But he took it, and he gave me a smile that ruptured my belly and I stayed silent.  The waitress came by to pick up the dishes on the counter next to us.  She looked for her tip, and then without a pause or a winch, she went about her business.

She had to know, but she was silent too!

When she was out of ear shot, I asked George what made him take her tip.  He smirked and said, “It was there.  Finders Keepers.”  That was it.  Somewhere in there he jumped off his stool and said, “Gotta go.”  He left as I silently finishing my milkshake.

I often studied in the public library that was across the street from the restaurant and this day was like every other school day.  School was a challenge for me so I had to put in extra time at the library.  George was off driving his red convertible.  He had one of those photographic memories and rarely opened a book, yet, he was on the honor roll.

When I left the library that night, I saw our waitress waiting for a bus on a bench across the street, counting her change.  Out of her uniform she looked different.  I noticed her worn shoes and her tired eyes.  I could hardly swallow.  She saw me watching her and she shyly looked down.  I didn’t say anything.  I just walked.

I never rode in George’s convertible after that.  We rarely spoke.  I don’t know if that afternoon changed him, but it definitely changed me.  To this day, I always leave a little extra in my tip.  I have given myself permission to speak my truth.  I vowed never to be silent again.  And most importantly, I discovered compassion.

I am thankful to that waitress for helping me open my heart so I could feel the suffering of others and for helping me open my mouth so I can now speak out when I see injustice.  I also want to thank George.  He helped me discover how deeply I care for others, that there is more to life than riding in a red convertible, and there are many ways of going through this life.  I can create disturbance or I can create loving.  It’s a choice.  Thanks to George, I know what I’m choosing.

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