Last night’s meditation, I thought about a couple of neighbors who have since passed away. When I first moved into my house I have now, there was an older lady who lived next door. She was a drinker, and she would go out shopping drunk and leaving she would hit nearly every car near her, so we had to park far away from my house. She would return, and leave her car sticking out in the street. At first, I did talk to her and even took her groceries in from her car, but once I ascertained she was continually drunk, I quickly dropped dealing with her. A few times, she would ring my bell, drunk and just lay into me, making no sense as to what is was the trigger(now, I think it may have been that she wanted help). We know we can’t change people but several times it was obvious what she was doing was for attention. She lived alone and lonely, and she died in her house and was there 3 1/2 weeks before anybody noticed. I was busy with a huge house repair, and the police used my scaffolding to get into her window to find her body. At the time all I could say was, “Oh, well, big surprise!”
Then there was “Billy,” the man who used to wander drunk up and down the block looking for love my first few years. It slowly became apparent that at 50+, he was no longer the looker he once was and nobody returned his stares, so then he graduated to walking to find fresh cement just to put his name in the sidewalk. I caught him at 1 am, marking my new concrete I had poured for my driveway. He also could never make it into his garage, so he would park anywhere, in any direction. He used to wander by just to see if I found him “interesting," which helped to light my anger. He died in his house at 55, and I could not muster any compassion for him even dead. Some sadness now comes up, when I see his “Billy Was Here” mark in a sidewalk.
Now, we have our reasons not to be compassionate, thinking that everyone out there is like these two, not really cuddly and needy just the way we like it. We are failing in these cases not to see the suffering, and that part of us that is just like them, but of course in a much subtler display. Compassion is not all or nothing kind of thing, we can adjust when the subject is not cooperating. With these cases could have send them love rather than hate mentally and it would have made me actually happier by not carrying the hate.
I was no where close to a wise understanding at that time, and all I could see is my drunken dead father gathering the moss of disgust in my mind. So, in a way I contributed to their suffering, by not moving the hatred to an even more neutral disappointment laced with some concern. "Tough love,” you say, was what was needed at the time, but being angry with them only helped to fuel their disenchanted view of life. So, now I will never know if I could have been that person, the one that one certain day, when they really needed was a kind hello to shake the foundation of their delusions and help them wake up.