I began really thinking about compassion in college. I was preparing to spend a summer in Australia volunteering with other young people and our group was encouraged to read Henri Nouwen’s Compassion. This book really opened my eyes to the idea of compassion being much more than just doing nice things for people.
Fast-forward 20 years and in November of 2018 I had the privilege of attending a Boundless Compassion retreat with Joyce Rupp in Bowen Island, British Columbia. The week was spent exploring themes of compassion: self-compassion, compassion for creation, compassion and marginalized people, etc.
I believe it is possible for compassion to be a way of life. And as I continue to look around at the current state of our world, I’m even more convinced that compassion will be the guiding force that helps heal the suffering.
I have never been so aware of the suffering of our Black sisters and brothers than I am now. It has become increasingly clear just how much systemic racism impacts the daily lives of so many from access to healthcare and housing, to police brutality, mass incarceration and the continual threat of white supremacy. I have felt helpless and overwhelmed at times and wondered, “What can I do?” Compassion reminds us to start with ourselves, changing our heart and lifestyle to help lessen the suffering of others.
As I continue to examine my own heart I know these are steps I can take:
- Educate– There are SO MANY resources available. I can read books and articles and listen to interviews and podcasts (by people of color).
- Advocacy– I can advocate for better practices from local, state and national government by contacting legislators. I can use my voting power to support candidates who are vocal about the necessity to end systemic racism.
- Build Community– I can make an effort to get to know my neighbors and seek out opportunities to interact with people who are different than me.
- $$$ Power– I think it’s important to acknowledge that money is a powerful tool. Our money has the power to support local businesses, minority-owned businesses, political figures, organizations working for social justice, programs for people impacted by systemic racism.
It’s easy to be discouraged and overwhelmed. Instead, let’s choose hope. Let’s choose to be a compassionate presence each day, whether we are writing/calling our legislators, sewing masks, preparing meals for frontline workers, grocery shopping for a neighbor, joining protests or just trying to become more informed on issues of injustice.