On Compassion

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Annotated Bibliography “On Compassion”

Ascher, Barbara. “On Compassion”. 5O Essays. Ed. Samuel Cohen. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin's, 2004. 35-38. Print.

Barbara Ascher’s essay offers examples of everyday life in New York City to support her thoughts about compassion. She uses two different encounters to back up her arguments and points. The first encounter involved a woman, with a child, giving money to a homeless person as he starred at the precious child. Ascher questioned as to why the woman gave to the homeless. Was it fear or compassion that motivated the gift? The second encounter involved a homeless person coming into a café, smelling of cigarettes and urine and the owner rushing to hand the man a coffee and a bag of food. Twice Ascher has witnessed this and one argument made was, what compelled the woman to feed the man? Was it because of pity? Care? Compassion? As winter comes the mayor kicks all the homeless of the streets and into Bellevue Hospital. Ascher thinks that what the mayor is doing shows compassion, but another side of her fears it is because of “raw humanity offending our sensibilities”(38). She uses interesting words to basically describe how people don’t like to face reality and see how life really is. People just walk past the homeless, pretend nothing is wrong and life is perfect; forgetting about the other humans in rags, starving, and living day to day on the street and in parks. For most it wasn’t a lifestyle chosen, yet people only see what is right in front of their eyes; “An awareness of rags with voices that make no sense and scream in inarticulate rage”(38). Ascher believes and states that, “Compassion is not a character trait like sunny disposition. It must be learned, and it is learned by having adversity at our windows, coming through the gates of our yards, the walls of our towns, adversity that becomes so familiar that we begin to identify and empathize with it.”(38) Ascher then, compares the...
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