Most of you know that Rory lost her friend Veronica when they were fourteen years old. Veronica had been hit by a car while crossing the street after school.
Tomorrow would have been her twenty-second birthday. So, of course, I have been thinking about her.
What you may not have known is that the girl driving the car that hit her was also a student at the same high school.
You can imagine school letting out on a beautiful autumn day. Streams of kids walking home. Loads of cars. Moms and carpools.
It was an accident. As tragic as it was.
Rumors went wild about the young driver.
A lot of the community’s energy was focused on the victim of the accident. Okay, most. Truth be told. All.
Except that I do recall something. Annie’s soccer coach, Lisa, made dinner for another family that was also devastated by the accident. Her neighbor across the street. The family of the young driver. I remembered thinking how very compassionate it was of Lisa.
While they didn’t lose a daughter this family was also very much effected. The girl ended up transferring to another school. I also remember being in a restaurant some months later and my Rory whispered, “That’s the girl who hit Veronica.”
My heart and mind was obviously with Veronica’s family at that time. But I often think about how we forget that so many folks are effected by tragic events. The young girl will never forget that day. That accident. I am sure the course of her life was utterly changed. As was her family’s. The whispers. Always being the girl who hit Veronica.
And that was an accident. Imagine the families of people who purposefully commit atrocities.
It is normal to open our hearts to victims. To side with the wronged or aggrieved party. It’s easier and, of course, no one wants to be seen as sympathetic to the other side.
Truly had me thinking about what real compassion might be.
I remember seeing the real life story, made into a television movie, where Sister Helen Prejean (played by Susan Sarandon) was the sole spiritual support for a rapist and killer. Whoa. Not sure I could do that. But I was in awe of her.
Recently saw a photo of Pope Francis. He was kissing a severely disfigured man on his head. Not sure I could do that either. I would like to think that I could but the reality is that I might not. It wouldn’t be easy. But I was in awe of him.
Now, granted, these last two examples are of people who are probably more compassionate than most. Whether through God’s gift or training.
There are so many people out there that would benefit from the difficult acts of compassion. Maybe all are victims. In some way. Maybe not. I hope that one day I might be truly compassionate. Not just when I am on the right side of it. And when it’s easy.