Compassion Can Be A Hard Thing To Learn

Mr Cummings, who taught me English at school was an almost registered “Odd Man.” You could see even then, and I was about eleven when he taught me, that most of his conversations were with himself, which he engaged you in if you were in his room or class, but they were not quiet conversations. He was always urgent, engaged, non-conformist and anxious not to waste a breath on just getting by. “Live it” he used to say about almost everything and being young boys, we laughed at him behind his back, and sometimes to his face, but he never seemed upset or distracted by our callow behaviour.

Gradually we understood he was about values, and caring, and looking for the details most of other people miss. He was as urgently alive as anyone I’ve met, and behind that mad eccentric engagement was also the most “knowing” person I knew. There was another side to him, perhaps a darker side, it’s hard to say. He had an empathy with souls who were suffering: if your life had plunged into shadows or been overpowered by grief he was the man you looked at and you knew he understood where you were. He didn’t talk in platitudes; he talked in experience and his compassion was beautifully constrained.

Years later I heard he took his own life using alcohol and pills, and the outpouring of love for him at his passing told you so much about his life. I realised, as well as telling us about the possibilities and beauty in our lives, he was also trying to protect us from those ghosts which haunted him constantly with a powerful stealth.

He made me realise that troubled people are often the bravest and most determined people you will meet. That for them to wake up and live an unexceptional day takes a level of courage and will-power few of us will ever have to demonstrate. He was the kindest and bravest man I met, who fought against demons all his life, and never lost that compassion which suffering gives to us.

Many of us don’t know what we mean to those around us. How our thoughts and routines form part of a pattern that sustains them in their lives, but for Mr Cummings, the whole world was his neighbour, and taking out their trash and passing the time of day with anyone he came across was the simplest expression of humanity. He never married and had no children but those of us who met him feel like orphans at his passing.

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, Compassion, creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Compassion Can Be A Hard Thing To Learn

  1. catterel says:

    A beautiful portrait, this rings very true.


  2. Jack Eason says:

    I had a similar teacher in high school Peter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mikesteeden says:

    A lost yet much admired sage…in many respects I hope this is factual although I guess it matters not a jot either way for this is an exquisite piece regardless


  4. ksbeth says:

    this is a stunning portrait of a man. i love mr. cummings just hearing about him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A wonderful character, Peter, and so accurate how it oftens takes a little too long to really appreciate the nature of others. True, too, that some deeply troubled souls can bring light into the lives of others, which surely is what marks us as human beings.


  6. Al says:

    Every time I think you can’t surpass the zenith of your previous writings, you take it to even new heights. This is a timeless piece that could describe someone in just about everyone’s life. Beautiful piece, Peter.


  7. authormbeyer says:

    I knew this man. Of course, he lived in a different country, had a different job, and even a different name. But it was the same man. The only thing more valuable than a life like this, poetically lived and overcoming challenges that break most of us… is when you make him immortal by telling us about him. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shonnie says:

    I do so love the way you write. Did I tell you that I am finally working on my book for real? I loved yours by-the-way. Did you write another?


  9. Those who walk the path most often are best observers of those just starting.


  10. tiostib says:

    beautifully said.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah, the few and far between.


  12. gwpj says:

    Beautiful, Peter, just beautiful, and so very true. Thank you for writing and sharing this.


  13. Marcus Case says:

    Very moving. Is this a creative piece, or factual?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Dawne Webber says:

    You do have a gift. Thank you for sharing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. nelle says:

    There are stories in each of us, stories about each of us, things others do not know. We see others in two dimensions, at least until we begin to learn more about someone, then they fill out like some saguaro cactus bloated after a desert rain. You have a way of painting such human doings, and I enjoy reading the stories.


  16. Like this very much. A little bit of a different voice.


  17. —beautiful.
    usually people like Mr. Cummings understand deep pain & it becomes their mission in life to help the suffering because they understand what that truly means.



  18. restlessjo says:

    The best pieces of writing often strike a chord with our own life, Peter. I am well aware of someone whose every day is a struggle to achieve the ‘norm’ and yet he’s always smiling, always kind. Life can be very cruel.


  19. Elizabeth says:

    :Hi, Peter.

    I’m so sorry to hear of Mr. Cummings’ passing. People like him are rare indeed and touch my heart when I meet them. He sounds like a beautiful soul, and I honestly believe God wouldn’t let his flame of passion die once he stepped through the veil that separates us from Heaven. I know he hears you and your tears. ((hugs))

    I needed this post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts without reserve. Thank you for your friendship.



  20. What can I add? Amen to that. The most beautiful things are often easiest to break – it is sad, but inevitable. I guess that’s why they are so rare. Gifted teachers always will be hard to find.


  21. L. R. Palmer says:

    I am silently weeping as I read this, over and over again…moving words to honor a beautiful soul. I “get” this, and I am humbled and awed by your perception, insight and eloquence. Thank you for sharing it! Seriously…


  22. olganm says:

    A very touching tribute. Thanks Peter.


  23. Nirodaigh says:

    What a beautifully written piece. You do this man honour with your wonderful words. Thank you for having such insight and gentleness. I very much enjoyed it.


  24. anjiknut says:

    I loved this and saw in the comments that it was fiction. Really drew me in, a very real person.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Pingback: Troubled Souls…. | RJ's Corner

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