Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Consider all sides...

NPR played a story this morning that has stuck with me all day. It focused on renters and landlords in Maine who have been affected by the skyrocketing oil prices we've likely all been struggling with (and impacted by) over the last few months.

Apparently, some landlords have neglected to keep up with the heating needs of their tenants; hundreds of renters have contacted the state in an effort to acquire adequate heating for their homes in the midst of a hard winter, and many of those affected are families with small children.

Easy to villify the landlords and to feel anger, outrage, and sadness when initially listening to this story. We can think back and remember our own experiences with similar injustices... to think of past landlords who treated us unfairly, to think about our own financial worries and the resultant anxiety in the wake of a recession-tinged economy, to remember a time when we were in trouble or jeopardy and feeling no one was there to help.

What was nice, however, was the reporter covering this story also interviewed some landlords and found they were struggling as well. Rising costs have forced many landlords to sacrifice their own heating needs, and many owners who occupy their buildings are facing unreasonable mortgage costs in the wake of the recent housing fiasco, as well as rising oil costs that threaten to make it impossible to keep up with their expenses. They are feeling scared and doing all they can to take care of their own families and make ends meet.

It's a difficult situation for everyone. And what struck me in listening to this story, aside from feeling a deep sadness that so many people are struggling to meet their most basic of needs, was a sense that most people are doing the best they can. I believe most people are not out to hurt others. We may be selfish at times in our pursuit of what we deem important, but usually the hurt we cause is a side effect of a myopic and singular drive to succeed in our plans. What's more, those who are purposefully hurting others are often doing so because their own experiences have necessitated the development of coping techniques and personality changes integral in ensuring survival.

Compassion can be a tricky thing. Especially when we're feeling scared, anxious, or helpless. Asking for help can be hard, and responding with love to those you see as oppressors can be even harder. But what a lofty goal to hold in one's heart and mind each day.

Compassion embraces frailty and beauty in the potentiality that is the very best of humankind and allows us to see the connection and commonality among us. Everyone has a story. Everyone has a history. Everyone has fears, hopes, hurts, and transgressions. We're human. We're imperfect. It's what is so lovely and impossibily frustrating in seeking to make meaning of the highs and lows of life.

No comments: