On Compassion By Barbara Lazear Ascher And Lars Eighner

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Compassion. What is it? Webster’s Dictionary definition is a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” My precept is that it lies at the heart of all traditions calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work to alleviate the suffering of our fellow man, to remove ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the sanctity of every single person treating everybody, without exception, with justice, equity and respect.
American authors Barbara Lazear Ascher and Lars Eighner reveal unique relationships between socioeconomic classes and lessons learned from adversity in “On Compassion” and “On Dumpster Diving.”
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Ascher believes observing the adversity of homelessness is a necessity in learning compassion because “Compassion is not a character trait. . .It must be learned, and it is learned by having adversity at our windows” (Cohen 42). Ascher believes we can learn and grow from others' adverse experiences without being a part of it. Although Ascher would have us believe we can learn compassion simply through observing adversity at our windows (homelessness), Eighner would likely disagree because he has struggled in adversity and learned the importance of true sentiment first hand, not through observation. Eighner writes of the importance of having an intimate connection with adversity in his own homelessness, “Once I was the sort of person who invests material objects with sentimental value. Now I no longer have those things, but I have the sentiments yet. . . .The things I find in dumpsters, the love letters and ragdolls of so many lives, remind me of this lesson” (Cohen 157, 158). Eighner has grown and holds sentiment in those lessons because he had those experiences, not because he has simply observed others. Ascher gives us a lesson in learning from adversity but does so from an outsiders' point of view while Eighner's personal experience contrasts to shows us that much can be learn from experiencing adversity more intimately.

Both the characters in Eighner’s and Ascher’s essay adhere to a social system in which life experiences

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