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Entering 2015 with compassion.

I was listening to the Ted Radio Hour  in my car the other day on my way to the gym. The episode was about compassion–where it comes from and how we can become better at it.   A piece of the episode struck me. A man was talking about how when we see people who are living on the streets asking for help, we often avoid eye contact.

Just as the man was talking about this phenomenon, I was sitting at the intersection where Glendale meets Alvarado where almost every day I avoid eye contact with any number of people asking for money or food.  Sometimes I also give–when the mood strikes me, or when it’s easy. But for the most part I avoid eye contact.

And now the guy on the radio was calling me out on it. Why do I avoid eye contact??

Then I remembered one day at that very intersection not too long ago when I was in the car with Jason and Ida.  Jason was driving. We stopped at the red light and the same homeless man who is often at that light began to weave through the cars asking for spare change. At the moment that he was approaching our car, Jason rolled down the window, looked up at him, smiled and said hello. I remember a sinking feeling of awkwardness. We didn’t have any cash on us, and Jason wasn’t going to give the man anything, so wasn’t it awkward to roll down the window and say hi??

I often smile and say hi to strangers. I do it on my morning jogs around the reservoir. I do it at cafes and shops, hell I have full on conversations with strangers on the internet all the time, so why did I feel the need to not even make eye contact with this man? And not only not make eye contact but go so far as to feel embarrassed or awkward when my husband does?

I asked Jason why he rolled the window down and said hello to the guy when we had nothing to give and his response went something like “why should I use someone’s neediness as an excuse not to acknowledge them?” And he is right. Smiles, greetings and acknowledgement can go such a long way in someone’s day, in someone’s life–and it is giving something.  It’s actually the most simple and basic and human thing to give–

Why was I depriving greetings and smiles to people who may need it the most?

This is the reminder that I want to channel as I enter 2015. I am SO fortunate.  I have so much. My life is so rich, so abundant.  We all face challenges, we all deserve compassion, smiles and simple acknowledgement that we are all human, and that we are all in this together.

Happy holidays my friends. Thank you for being here. I appreciate you.



Justina Blakeney Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

20 responses to “Entering 2015 with compassion.”

  1. Brenda Kula says:

    I think we all tend to do that. Avoid eye contact. We feel awkward. We feel we have too much. And it’s hard to face that.

  2. Heather T. says:

    Wow, moving post! Living in such a privileged society, it is easy to look past people who we devalue and believe offer nothing to society. However, these people often have gone through circumstances that we have been fortunate enough not to have gone through ourselves. (Or maybe we have gone through similar experiences, but were fortunate to have a safety net of supportive family and friends.) I like this website because it helps give this marginalized group of people a voice: https://www.facebook.com/skidrowstories The posts are very touching; the stories communicate humanity and compassion.

  3. Rach Bryant says:

    Feeling guilty. You totally called me out on that…. I did it yesterday. I want to do more but know that some people just ask for cash and don’t need it. Saw a couple pass by and drop off food to a homeless man in Milan the other day and was thinking in winter, the kindest thing to give is warm clothing and footwear. Winter on the streets must be incredibly tough!

  4. This is a touching post… I guess we all can relate to that behavior. I’m guilty too :( but let’s hope this post works as a reminder of how fortunate we are and how much compassion is needed nowadays. For everybody. You’re a beautiful soul Justina.

  5. Jess says:

    A beautiful sentiment eloquently expressed at a day when I’m especially grateful to hear it. Thank you so much.

  6. Nicky says:

    This brought a lump to my throat Justina. Thanks for pulling us up on this too. A small gesture like that could change someone’s day or even be a turning point for them no matter what walk of life they are from. Merry Christmas x

  7. tannaz says:

    love this. what a great reminder. here’s to not making excuses when it comes to acknowledging the humanity in others in the coming year. happy 2015 to you and your family!

  8. I had a very similar experience in the car with Chris recently- you just put it all into words and perspective so well! Thank you for being you- so honest and uplifting and real. Happiest of new years to you and your family xoxo

  9. Corlie says:

    I often do the same, turn and pretend not to see people who struggle just because I feel so guilty for not being able to fix their lives. Just a smile and an acknowledgement of their humanity is perhaps OK on the days that you can’t help them. Thanks for writing this and have a lovely new year!

  10. Sandrine says:

    We have a growing population of people living on the streets, mostly coming from eastern Europe. I wish I had compassion for them, but I cannot. I know those people are hated in all countries, even in their own land. I know they have no choice but to beg, rob, etc to survive. Their violence is scary, the fact that they are fearless is scary. I wish I had identical compassion for everyone but I cannot. But I so much agree with you though…

  11. Traci says:

    Beautifully written, and a valid reminder as we go into a new year. I hope your holidays were wonderful.

  12. peg says:

    Justina, such a good reminder thanks for sharing it. Law enforcement in Colorado has had a campaign recently about making eye contact with other drivers and pedestrians when you are behind the wheel, I guess studies show that making eye contact decreases accidents.

  13. Rebecca says:

    What a good reminder.
    I definitely am guilty of this as well and this is something to think about.

  14. Sylvia says:

    Thank you Justina. I made a commitment to myself several years ago not to do guilt, so I don’t. How blessed is beautiful little Ida Sky to have such loving, sensitive, intuitive parents as examples of compassion in action. I am a licensed clinical social worker so I am intentional about recognizing the humanity in those without a domicile by making eye contact with a smile.

    Thank you for your humility and vulnerability which is an invitation for us all to cultivate our compassion.

  15. […] entering 2015 with compassion […]

  16. Mattie says:

    Justina, Jason sounds a lot like Den. That genuine spirit. They make it seem so easy, and that’s why we love them.

    Loved the card. Love the sentiments. Love that we’ve connected in some small way to bring art, color, and uniqueness to the world. :-)

  17. Denise says:

    <3 <3 <3

  18. Your wise son puts the rest of us to shame. I avoid eye contact pretty often….and I never have cash.

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