13 July 2009
The price of compassion
An electronic dispatch from the China News carries a story about the tragic death of a Sri Lankan man. He died of head injuries suffered after a fall inside his well.
What makes this especially tragic is that his death was the direct result of a selfless act, an act of compassion.
The man had been cleaning his 60-foot-deep well when he saw a squirrel fall into the water from above. The squirrel had been on an overhanging branch and apparently lost either balance or footing. In what was to become an ill-fated act of concern, good-will and compassion, the man climbed back down into the well and scooped up the little squirrel, saving the animal's life.
His next act is perhaps what sealed his fate: He put the small creature, for safekeeping, into his pocket to make it easier to carry him back up. But the squirrel bit him - frightened, no doubt, by his sudden captivity. And that is when the man lost his grip and plummeted to his death.
There are no words to express how truly tragic this is. The loss of good people always diminishes life on this planet for every one of us, and this is surely the case here.
Sadder still is how the news service chose to characterize this story: It is carried under the publication's banner of "ODD NEWS."
I did not know that compassion and selflessness were considered odd nowadays, and I am sorrier still that it reduces this man's sacrifice - the ultimate sacrifice, it turns out - to nothing more than that.