Starting Point
This week's stories | Home Page
Issue Date:  April 22, 2005

Starting Point


The sun breaks through the trees, shines into my eyes, and then withdraws behind a cloud; how different the woods feel when the clouds hide the light. Sunlight returns for a moment, birds sing in the background, recent rains cause the grass to green. Last night I listened to Thich Nhat Hanh on the radio talk about how it is necessary to suffer in order to understand compassion.

Earlier today I met a man who hopes to live through Christmas. Cancer had taken hold of his body and the surgeons had done their best to remove the cancer. In a whispering voice, he talked about telling his daughters, 11 and 9 years old, that he would soon die from the cancer; his older daughter had cried.

I stopped by the storm water pond on my way to these woods, and as I looked down into the water I saw a bullhead. I assumed the fish was dead as the lower half of its body had been torn away. As I watched it, there seemed to be a glimmer of life in the fish’s eyes, and it appeared to be gasping, opening and closing its mouth to pump water through its gills. The wind was strong, and waves were bouncing the fish around, so it was difficult to tell if it was life or the rough water causing the movement. I pushed the fish closer to shore with a stick, and was amazed to see that it was indeed still alive. I could not understand how a creature that had lost much of its body could still live. My eyes filled with tears partly from the strong wind blowing in them, but also because of sadness I felt. I hoped that the suffering would be over soon.

Why are sufferings a part of life? Cawing crows, the sound of the wind blowing through newly formed leaves, and the echoing words of an 80-year-old Vietnamese Buddhist monk. What is compassion? Is it the connections I feel? A woodpecker loops through the sky and calls out. Why did I see life, when I looked into the bullhead’s eyes?

Tom Jablonski writes from Blaine, Minn.

National Catholic Reporter, April 22, 2005

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: