Are you teaching human qualities with words?

September 26, 2013

show a little compassionWhen I lived in Bondi there was this dude who lived on my street. Literally.

He wore an oversized suit, no matter what time of year it was, and he had sparse stringy hair and sported a long, grey beard. When he got his annual beard trim and haircut, and he looked kind of strange; like something was missing.

Like a furry dog that’s been shorn.

His shoulders were incredibly bony and rounded and I saw him about for years. He spent his days cruising up and down Bondi Road and he spent his nights in various bus shelters or under trees. For a time, he took to sheltering under the balcony at the front of our first floor apartment. This fact came to light as he was quite the mutterer. Sometimes shouty muttering and sometimes whispered, but lots and lots of chats went down in this guy’s head.

He had good days and bad days. Sometimes he smiled with his thin lips, showing his dirty, grey teeth and other times he just stared at the ground for hours upon hours, hand absently stroking his beard.


He had no belongings except a couple of plastic bags full of folded papers and other plastic bags, at least, that’s what they looked like to me. To him, they were his wordly treasures.

I always used to smile at him and say hi, but he never answered me back. He rarely made eye contact. He did start to stare at me, after months of me smiling a smile at him, so I took this as a form of welcome. One day I went over the road to our local IGA and I bought him a little bag of groceries. Baked beans, bread, fruit and yoghurt, nothing amazing, just a few things.

I went and gave him the bag as he sat under our balcony but he refused to take it from my hand. I gently left it at his feet and said –

This is for you, my friend

-and I walked upstairs. When I came out the following morning, the bag was still there, untouched, and my friend was nowhere to be seen.

I didn’t take it personally.

I’ve always been a ‘bring a stray home’ type, but my Mama was always a very compassionate person, and I learnt by observing her. My career started with kittens, and progressed to a kid from school having a hard time.

Mum let me keep them. Bless her.

If my Mama turned them away, or said rude things about foreigners (not the ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’ ones, real ones) or homeless people, I’d probably have learned that.

Thank God my Mother has a great capacity for compassion.

I recently saw a friend display the most stunning compassion I think I’ve ever seen. She befriended a young single mum in a council flat that was riddled with mould and was causing devastating illness to this mum and her four year old daughter.
I watched my friend fight tooth and nail to get this story heard when the Department of Housing wasn’t listening. The government didn’t seem to care. After months of struggle, and a tox report 280,000 times higher than safe, now people are paying attention. I believe the 7.30 Report will be airing a story on Friday night.

When we were chatting about it she asked –how do you eat an elephant

My friend was tenacious, and she didn’t give in. She inspired others to help. At the cost of her own family’s time with her, she did not give in…… it’s still going on.

I don’t want to be all Captain Preachy Pants, but it’s really not rocket science. If we’re trying to teach our children these lovely human qualities like empathy, and sharing… monkey see, monkey do. Action is worth a gazillion words.

One of the biggest things we can teach our children about compassion is it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. I’d love to foster all the kids that need it, help all of the displaced and scared people and bring every single one of the Syrian orphans home to my house, but I can’t.

Thankfully, there are organisations like UNICEF to help on the big jobs (if you would like to know more about donating to Syria, click here. Their need is not over, although they are no longer a headline), and I can work on the small jobs in my own backyard.

A smile, a coffee or a meal for someone in need. A kind word, a small donation, some hand me downs. Acknowledgment. Not just walking past someone on the street, but saying hi. They were once like you, but things didn’t work out.

An elephant is indeed very difficult to eat, but with small bites, determination and a good bottle of wine, it is possible.

If you liked this post be sure to like my Facebook page or follow my twit twaddle @theholsbys to ensure you can always keep up with the Holsbys.

Flogging it on Friday with my homegirl, Mama G over sat With Some Grace for FYBF.

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  • Reply tric September 26, 2013 at 8:42 am

    I think it is up to us parents to show the way and encourage a social conscience. Since my friends boy got sick with leukemia my youngest insisted on doing a car boot sale. The proceeds have gone to the nurses home care visiting team who looked after him so well when he was at home. She did it off her own bat, with no input of any sort from myself, and so far has run two sales raising over €400. She is 11.

  • Reply Cat September 26, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Beyond beautiful!

  • Reply Have a laugh on me September 26, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Did you ever see that homeless man again? I wonder what his story was? I’m intrigued. I think compassion is so important. We have a teenager autistic girl in our neighbouring street is allowed to roam the streets near us and a few of the kids have called her crazy, silly, and this morning as I drove my daughter and sons down the street we saw her. On the swing along, with her music on singing to herself, my daughter said an older boy she knows said that she was “annoying” and I said “no, she’s not, she’s just a little different, and it’s okay to be different, we are all different and that’s okay” – we have such great responsibilities as parents to ensure our children accept others, and are compassionate to others. So far my girl is shaping up to be compassionate, and judgement free, I hope it stays that way x

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys September 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Oh yeah, right, the dude. Yeah, we just continued on our merry way. I moved but I still saw him around for years, and then now…..??? No idea.

      It’s a mega job, but a worthy one. We can but do our best!

  • Reply Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad September 26, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I think this is so important. I love that you showed such care with the homeless dude and I think your friend is amazing! Totally teaching your children the way. I’m currently doing some volunteer work with asylum seekers and refugees. Just a bit of tutoring and social connection work, but I try and get my kids involved too so that they can learn the giving business. We have the power to mould our little humans, so why not mould them to be great people?
    PS – I also wanna know what happened to the homeless guy??? Did you see him again?

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys September 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Isn’t she amazing? I really want to write a piece on asylum seekers. Could you get me in touch or would that be inappropriate?

      I don’t know where he is now, but I did keep seeing him around for years. I moved away from the area about 4 years ago.

      • Reply Vicki @ Knocked Up & Abroad September 30, 2013 at 11:31 am

        Sure! Are you wanting to do some volunteer work with asylum seekers? I googled organisations in my local area to see who was doing what. I found that where I live (Geelong, Vic) there is a high intake of refugees and now asylum seekers doing community detention waiting for a visa. I had to wait 6 months before they did a new intake of volunteers but now I am super involved and love it! Writing a piece on it too since it’s become a bit of a passion.

  • Reply San September 26, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    Well said girlfriend …..well said. if there were more people like you and your gorgeous Ma in the world, it would be a FAR better place. BTW, the ratio of red wine to elephant is about 4 to 1.

  • Reply Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me September 27, 2013 at 6:48 am

    I love that bringing a stray home for you includes humans. My husband is the same and has countless stories of him bringing home random backpackers her found hitch hiking when he was a kid. I definitely agree. We need to model the way and lead the way for our children.

  • Reply Leanne Winter September 27, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Nice post. I agree we need to set good examples for our children. You can guarantee that every nasty, racist, unkind comment ever uttered in school playground came from a child who’d heard their parents say something similar. I try not to preach about it to my children but make tolerance and empathy a way of life.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys September 27, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Yep, no point telling them about it. They just need to be shown. They pick stuff up elsewhere, and then you just beat it out of them 😉

      Sent from my iPhone


  • Reply Kate (@TheMummyMorph) September 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    compassion is soo important and i hope that as my little man grows he can aspire to be a kind of person full of compassion as I do. Your story is moving and your friend is an amazing person. So many sad stories go untold, if we could all just help each other, the world would be such a different place

  • Reply Grace September 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Bang on right, Mrs H! If we don’t show our kids how to be kind, caring and compassionate, who will?
    So glad you’ve written this post for UNICEF. Such an important cause.

  • Reply [email protected] September 28, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Absolutely, if we don’t show our kids, who will?
    My sister and I have always been stray collectors, since we were kids, so I guess that’s the way we’ve been brought up too.
    I’ve experienced racism, and hope our daughter never has to cop it. It’s probably the main thing about people I just don’t understand.
    Good on you and your wonderful friend x

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys September 28, 2013 at 7:14 am

      People seem to fear people different to them. Racism sucks big hairy balls.

      Sent from my iPhone


  • Reply Becky from BeckyandJames.com September 29, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Beautiful post. Compassion is such an important thing to encourage in our children.

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