This weekend, I felt compassion for a mouse.
And I am terrified of mice.
That fear, of course, is an indicator that mice are one of my best teachers about compassion.
I was walking through an upstairs room and noticed a small pile of sawdust below a bookshelf. "Strange" I thought to myself. "Why would there be sawdust on the floor under my bookshelf?"
And then I opened the door to the bookshelf and saw a mouse's tail. "Strange" I thought to myself, again. "Why would there be a mouse's tail in my bookshelf?"
And then I recoiled in terror when I realized that the mouse's tail was connected to a mouses's body! Inside my bookshelf!
I could see tiny little tooth marks on the cupboard door. And now the mouse was lying still as could be with her nose tucked into the corner. I quickly closed the bookshelf door and, with my heart pounding, I sat down to think.
I could leave the mouse there and hope it would go away on its own. That way I wouldn't have to see it or think about it or touch it. I could pretend it wasn't there and that I hadn't seen it.
But that didn't sound like a very good idea.
Or I could call my lovely and generous friend who lives next door and knows of my mouse fear. Perhaps she would help me. I could move into the fear.
I chose the second option.
My friend arrived quickly and didn't laugh at me. Instead, she grabbed a dishtowel and went upstairs to investigate the bookshelf, while I waited outside.
She emerged a moment later with a small brown field mouse, held gently in the dishtowel. It was dead, she said, with it's tiny nose tucked into the corner of the bookshelf.
My friend gently carried its body to the tall grasses to release it.
And then I had a realization. "The mouse was only living its nature, whatever that is, just as I am. We are both doing our best to be who we are meant to be."
It was being a tiny mouse in December in Minnesota.
Thomas Merton said... "The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another."
A gold, shimmering, invisible thread that connects my nature with that of a tiny field mouse.
Compassion is slow medicine that opens my heart. With gratitude to my friend and a tiny mouse, two of my important teachers.