A Lesson in Compassion – How one simple gesture saved a life

Compassion is a principle that can be hard to define for a lot of teenagers. They think showing compassion means giving lots of money to help someone in need. What most students don’t realize is that showing compassion is as easy as seeing someone in need and doing something about it.

Since compassion can be hard for students to define, we’ve found that the best way to teach them about how they can live out this universal principle is by sharing an example.

When it comes to teaching students about the difference they can make by showing compassion to others, here’s one of our favorite stories:

Mark was walking home from school one day when he noticed the boy ahead of him had tripped and dropped all of the books he was carrying along with two sweaters, a baseball bat, a glove, and a small tape recorder. Mark knelt down and helped the boy pick up the scattered articles. Since they were going the same way, he helped to carry the burden.

As they walked Mark discovered the boy’s name was Bill, that he loved video games, baseball, and history, that he was having a lot of trouble with his other subjects and that he had just broken up with his girlfriend. They arrived at Bill’s home first and Mark was invited in for a Coke and to watch some T.V. The afternoon passed pleasantly with a few laughs and some shared small talk, then Mark went home.

They continued to see each other around school, had lunch together once or twice. They ended up at the same high school where they had brief contacts over the years. Finally, the long-awaited senior year came, and three weeks before graduation, Bill asked Mark if they could talk. Bill reminded him of the day years ago when they first met.

“Do you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things from school that day?” asked Bill. “You see, I had cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stored away some of my mother’s pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together I realized that if I had, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books for me that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life.”

Sometimes all a student needs is a little reminder that they can change a life when they simply stop and help someone in need. As mentors, you exemplify that in the way that you interact and engage students week after week. We have no doubt that the example you provide and the lessons you teach students about living a life of compassion are making a tremendous difference in the way they live.

Mentors: What are some of your favorite ways to teach students about the impact they can make by taking the time to help others when they see a need?


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