“All change, even very large and powerful change, begins when a few people start talking with one another about something they care about.”
~Margaret J. Wheatley
It has to start with ourselves. Watching or listening to the news can be so discouraging, leaving me and possibly you asking what can be done? And we all know the answer: plenty!
There’s a reason I opened with this photo. If there were ever a natural disaster that struck the High Desert, the first action I’d take would be to ensure the safety of my two Black Labs. Period. They’re that valuable to me. Yet when nature casts her wrath, people lose not only what they most treasure but sometimes, everything.
Most of us consider ourselves to be compassionate. A dictionary defines compassion as the “sorrow for suffering of others,” and “the urge to help.” While this definition identifies compassion as feeling or desire, I am convinced that being truly compassionate is found more in the actions that result from those feelings – compassionate actions.
Compassionate actions begin with the love we have for ourselves and for others. It manifests itself in our kindness, patience, and willingness to act to relieve the pain of others. It also manifests in the empathy we feel for others and their experiences or conditions.
We can know if we are expressing truly compassionate action by two characteristics: The first is the detachment from the results of our actions. You and I act because action is needed from our connection to other human beings and our sense of the value of that connection. We act from compassion without a desire for recognition or appreciation for our actions.
The second characteristic is to extend to all, regardless of race, religion, culture or status. True compassion responds to the suffering condition wherever and to whomever it is occurring. It doesn’t have preconditions.
Compassionate actions challenge us to be human beings first. These actions provide us the opportunity to experience human connection while providing a perspective on life and clarifying what matters most or ought to matter most. This isn’t about common volunteering, everyday generosity or doing a daily kind deed. This is rooted in who we are at our core and what we automatically do when others are in need.
You don’t need a “S” on your chest.
Two questions to consider: Family members aside, what is the first “thing” you’d rush to save in a natural or man-made disaster and; When was the last time you performed noteworthy compassionate action?