It is easy to miss. We rub up against it from time to time but may never truly grasp the magnitude of the moment. Let alone embrace the depth of its impact. But in those brief “ah-ha” moments we can’t help but think, “I need to employ the power of compassion more often!”
I was speaking at a conference in Texas earlier this year. During the break before I was going to be introduced a gentleman urgently approached me. It was clear he had something he wanted me to hear.
Without hesitation or introductory pleasantries, he quickly made his point. “Up to now, this conference has completely failed to meet my expectations. I really didn’t want to come but was told I would learn a lot. It’s all up to you to save this thing!”
Nerves Turn to Pressure.
The nerves I feel before I take the stage are generally a sign I am ready and embracing the privilege that comes with speaking to any group. Now my nervous excitement shifted to nervous pressure.
I extended my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Jim and you are?” “Joe,” he said, “Rich told me I shouldn’t miss this. I am counting on you not to make Rich a liar. Good luck!”
Who Is This Guy?
I was thinking, “Who is this guy,” as told him I would do my best as he turned and walked back to his seat. As I was moments away from taking the stage the magnitude of the moment dawned on me.
It was one of those “ah-ha” moments where you realize you have a unique place in time and history to make an impact. There were 150 people in the room and most of us were more like Joe than any of us had the courage to admit.
Two Hidden Truths
Who is this guy? He is just like you and me. He reflects what is going on in the lives of people who cross our path every day.
- There is more going on in someone’s life than you will ever know.
- There is something troubling them that is painful. A situation or circumstance that is discouraging or embarrassing.
The Rest of the Story
After my first session, Joe told me I saved the night. But had I really saved the conference in his mind? With two more sessions to present the following day, it all hinged on Joe returning.
Joe kept me in suspense by showing up just before I took the stage. After the first session, he sought me out and asked me a lot of questions. As I was answering his first couple questions, it dawned on me.
This was one of those moments. He didn’t want me to answer his question. He wanted me to see the aching of his heart. Answers were not what he was looking for. Goodness I am not sure he even cared about the answers. He wanted someone to appreciate his pain and searching.
I made a connection with Joe over the course of those 24 hours. I gave him my contact information and told him, “Reach out to me any time.” My connection with Joe has turned into an unlikely friendship.
What is Compassion?
Over the course of the conference, I spoke about how each of us have a unique time and place in history to create and sustain impact. A gateway to impact is compassion.
Compassion is the human quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to alleviate it. I think we all have this quality. Unfortunately, we don’t take the time to slow down enough to listen and observe what is going on in and around us.
I am convinced this is why we can rub up against opportunities to understand the suffering of others and miss these precious opportunities to connect.
Two Keys to Compassion.
How do you demonstrate the power of compassion? You can start by taking a moment during the course of your day and step back from what you are doing and listen and observe.
Start by focusing on the people closest to you and ask yourself three questions.
- What makes their “heart thump?” What is it that they dream about and makes their heart sing?
- What are their wounds that give rise to fears?
- What is on their heart today that is weighing them down?
Slow down—you don’t want to miss the many “ah-ha” moments that present you with unique opportunities for creating and delivering memorable impact.
Note: Joe is not the true identity of the person in the story. I have changed his name for privacy purposes.