Stella Leventoyannis Harvey


Compassion is not a weakness and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” Hubert H. Humphrey

Il genti sono bravi.  The people are good. Lucky for me she speaks Italian because my Greek is at best étsi ki étsi (so, so).

I had arrived back in Athens and wondered if she was there. I’d wandered down to see. Yes, she was where she’d always been since I met her in 2014, sitting on the marble stoop of a high-end apartment building selling packages of Kleenex. Many people walk by and refuse to make eye contact. Others give money and don’t take the Kleenex. Some bring her coffee. Others, a croissant. This is how she makes a living and supports herself and her daughters.

After hugs and kisses and a bit of catch-up, I commented on her beautiful blue bike.

She told me that someone had stolen her original bike. She’d ducked away for a few minutes to use the public washroom and when she’d returned the bike along with some of the packages of Kleenex were gone.

A man walking by saw her crying and took the time to ask her what was wrong. She explained and he’d apologized that this had happened to her.

The next day he returned with a new bike and a lock.  

I was reminded of this conversation when I read a Globe and Mail article this week about compassion or rather the lack of it in our world today.

I wasn’t surprised to read that technology had changed our personal interactions and hence our ability to feel for others. What did surprise me was a finding in a recent study that showed the more a person has, the less he or she is likely to give.

This doesn’t make sense to me. On the other hand, it doesn’t have to.

A wise man (my father) told me once that we are only responsible for our own actions, our own decisions. Comparisons are meaningless and useless.

He’s always been able to make a good point.

At the risk of being labelled weak (which has happened often) or a socialist (yeah, so?), I want to be the kind of person who, if called upon, would buy a bike and lock for a bereft woman.

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