I am livid and have been so for the past twenty four hours or almost! Not the way I usually am but some things do make me see red. I have been mulling over my extreme reaction for the past twenty four hours as I knew it was far deeper than a simple reaction to a apparently innocuous incident. And here I am twenty four hours later writing a ruminative essay on compassion and gratitude.
It all began with a phone call. The call was from Prabin, our foster care teacher. Apparently the mothers of two our boarding school kids were with him and were asking him to ask me to arrange for transport that they would pay for so that they could go the the school PTM! As I said not a big deal but somehow it was like the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. I could have easily dismissed the request by a curt no and ended the matter. But that was not to be.
To set the record straight before I go on, parents of the 4 children that are in boarding school were taken to the school for the first PTM some months and told that henceforth they would have to make arrangements to go to subsequent ones themselves as I felt this was the every least they could do. The boarding school is accessible by public transport. The request of the two ladies was thus totally out of place.
However the request they made was very much in sync with a disturbing fact that has been plaguing us for quite some time and that we have tried our best to ignore and/or justify as best we could. The disturbing fact is the total lack of gratitude that we have witnessed over the years from those we have helped. And what is troubling is the fact that the larger the quantum of help, the less the feeling of gratitude. It is almost as if greed creeps in when help is forthcoming. The two ladies in question are perfect examples of this: we sponsored the open heart surgery of one's daughter and cared for the other when she was terribly sick. I am at a loss to try and fathom why this happens? Is it because of desperation or because of wiliness. I would still like to believe it is the former but I really do not know. And today I somehow am not finding it in my heart to forgive easily.
For the past ten years I have been battling the lack of compassion I see in my social peers and the Lord only knows how much of it I have seen. Whether it is when I seek monetary help or share stories of the work we do, I am often met with disapproval bordering on contempt. What kept me going was the fact that I still believed and held on to the fact that what one was doing was at least appreciated by those it benefited. Please do not think that one is looking for kudos and credit. Far from that. But what irks me today is the feeling of being taken for granted. And that leads me to think that the lack of compassion perhaps stems from this very fact.
I know I have to take hold of myself and not let my momentary exasperation translate into any action I might regret tomorrow. I have to hold on to the fact that I am helping children who have done no harm and are in no way responsible for the idiosyncrasies of their parents. I have to assuage my heart and check my temper. And above all have to try and figure out one teaches compassion and gratitude to children so that they grow up with the right values.
So help me God!