Summary. For compassion and kindness to reach out into the world and have a positive change, we need to make it our job to know what’s going on in the world. It’s easy to be in tune with the needs of our family, our friends, and our co-workers. Yet, who has time to be aware of what goes on beyond the immediate surroundings?
To be transcendently compassionate and kind, it’s important to have an awareness of different people, cultures, places, and needs beyond those that are immediately apparent.
Once, one of the New York State Senators asked for a private meeting (yechidus) with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. After speaking with the Rebbe for a little over an hour, he emerged from the Rebbe’s office quite excited. “I never realized what a great man your Rebbe is,” he told Rabbi Leibel Groner, the Rebbe’s personal secretary.
He explained that he had asked to see the Rebbe to seek his guidance concerning certain issues involving the Jewish community. After the Rebbe had advised him with regard to these matters, the Rebbe asked if he could ask the senator a favor.
“Here it comes, I thought to myself,” he told Rabbi Groner. “Just like all the others, the Rebbe is also looking for a payoff. But what did the Rebbe ask me?”
“There is,” the Rebbe said, “a growing community in Chinatown. These people are quiet, reserved, hard working and law-abiding, the type of citizens most countries would treasure. But because Americans are so outgoing and those residents are, by nature, reserved, they are often overlooked by government programs. As a senator from New York, I would suggest that you concern yourself with their needs.”
“I was overwhelmed. The Rebbe has a community of thousands in New York who could benefit from government programs, and he has institutions all over the country for which I am in a position to help secure funding. But the Rebbe didn’t ask about that. He was concerned with Chinatown. I don’t think he has ever been there, and I’m certain that most people there don’t know who he is, but he cares about them. Now that’s a true leader!”