Compassion lesson to be learned in this sad story
Updated: October 1, 2012 11:15AM
One of the saddest stories I’ve read recently was the tale of Henry Wolfson, a longtime substitute teacher at Skokie’s McCracken Middle School.
Wolfson is homeless. His story has appeared in the Pioneer Press and other Chicago newspapers. He’s been portrayed as an innocent victim of our harsh economy, where hard work is not always rewarded with wealth.
Wolfson’s apparent mistake in our society’s chase for the good life was to dedicate his life to teaching, specifically substitute teaching. By all accounts, he was excellent at this calling and much-loved by his students.
But as we all know, substitute teaching does not pay enough to earn a living. And, as the stories made clear, Wolfson was homeless because of it and society’s failings to care for those on hard times.
But last week, I read another story that was even sadder: A fundraising campaign started by former students to help Wolfson was being suspended. Why?
A key detail was left out of the original story about Wolfson’s plight.
Wolfson had received nearly $250,000 in 2007 from a trust fund set up by his parents. According to the Chicago Tribune, he received $12,000 from the settlement of a lawsuit between family. Last week, he told the Tribune he lost about $180,000 in a little more than a year gambling on horse racing.
That’s even sadder than the previous story.
Sad because Wolfson neglected to admit his own responsibility for his plight to the reporter. Sad because gambling preys on people and ruins lives.
And sad because his former students acted in good faith to raise nearly $40,000 to help Wolfson, but their faith in their former teacher who once inspired them was misplaced.
There is one bright spot in this sad story. It is the four young adults who were inspired to act — brothers Adam and Tony Youhanna, Christina Audisho and Anita Zaia.
DEPTH OF COMPASSION
The depth of their compassion is clearly visible in a video they posted on the website they set up to raise money to help Wolfson. Their care and concern is beautiful and inspiring.
It is a sad story, but I’m not going to focus on the mistakes that were made or make a judgment about it. Instead, I will focus on this: Good and compassionate people will act selflessly to help others in need when they see it. That’s the lesson to be learned from this episode again and again and again.