It might seem like one of our easier monthly themes. After all, compassion sounds…well, nice. It conjures up a bunch of warm feelings. Images come to mind of people telling each other they are keeping them in their thoughts. It would seem to be all about emotional connection and empathetic feeling.
But then along comes a quote like this:
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others.” -Andrew Boyd
“True compassion is to engage in the suffering of others.”
– The Charter for Compassion
Both are reminders that compassion is not just a matter of niceness and thoughtful feelings. It’s a deeper type of feeling that drives us to action.
Indeed, that may be compassion’s defining characteristic; it is distinguished by doing. To feel the pain of another, well, the word “empathy” has that covered. But compassion takes it a step further. Compassion calls us to do something about that pain.
In other words, compassion calls us to change things! It’s not just about comforting others; it’s about our comfort getting disturbed. It’s about connecting with another’s pain and struggle so deeply that we can’t rest until they rest. When we feel compassion – real compassion – we don’t just understand another’s pain, we want it to stop. And then we do what’s needed to make it stop.
It makes one wonder: Maybe the true test of compassion is justice.
And if that’s close to the mark, then maybe compassion’s question for us this month isn’t what we thought it was. Instead of asking us, “Are you able to feel?” maybe it’s asking, “What are you prepared to do?
– Courtesy of Soul Matters Sharing Circle
During this time of Covid-19, suffering and struggle are ubiquitous. Whether it comes in the form of sickness and job loss or loneliness, stress and worry, suffering has taken up residence in so many of our homes. Compassion is needed now more than ever. And yet because of social isolation, it’s harder than ever for us to extend our kindness and care to those who need it.
Or is it?
There are always creative, irregular and even sneaky ways to offer our compassion to others, to let them know they are seen and not alone. You might even call it “guerilla compassion.” Imagine leaving an unexpected vase of flowers on a neighbor’s porch to brighten their day. Or stealthily going to the house of a neighbor who’s been sick and surprising them with a pre-dawn weeding of their flower bed. What about sending a random “You Rock!” note to your child’s teacher who is doing their best to learn new online ways of teaching for the sake of your kid and so many others? Are you a photographer? How about inviting folks on your block to step outside their front door for a family portrait with their home that has now become their entire world? (It might at least get people to shower and get out of their pajamas!) Or maybe it’s organizing a flash mob-like carpool that drives over and sings Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary or Happy Graduation to that person who’s been cheated out of a real celebration.
All of these things can be done while honoring social distancing. None of them require the removal of our masks. All it takes is some creativity and guerilla tactics.
So, what will your act of “guerilla compassion” be?
Morning Metta on Your Mirror!
If you’re not the meditating type and the Option B exercise just isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry, you don’t have to give up entirely on exploring the impact of loving-kindness. All this exercise asks you to do is tape the metta/loving-kindness mantra on your bathroom mirror and give it some thought while you brush your teeth! And of course you are free to improvise: taping it on your coffee machine or writing it on 3*5 card that you read while eating your morning cereal works just as well.
Here are some versions of the traditional metta phrases:
- May (I/you/all) live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.
- May (I/you/all) be safe and protected. May (I/you/all) be healthy and strong. May(I/you/all) be truly happy.
- May (I/you/all) be free from danger. May I have mental happiness. May I have physical happiness. May I have ease of well-being
Whichever wording you pick, use it to direct compassion into wider and wider circles of relationship: yourself, someone you love, someone you are neutral towards, someone you have difficulty with and finally toward all beings everywhere.
In other words, begin your day by simply calling to mind these various relationships and wishing them well. It’s a whole lot better than beginning your day thinking about that challenging co-worker of yours and imagining all the ways you hope they get “what they deserve.” Actually, that is kind of the point: When we intentionally reframe our relationships and tell ourselves what everyone deserves is compassion, it changes the way we see them, and it changes us.
Questions for Reflection
What did your family of origin teach you about compassion? Who deserved compassion? Who didn’t? What did it mean? Tenderness? Tough love? Being moved to action?
What was your primary self-care and self-compassion strategy as a child and then as a teenager? Is there a lesson/call/reminder in that for you today?
When were you healed by the compassion of a stranger?
When were you healed by the compassion of nature?
Have you ever been healed by the compassion of God?
If asked, would your family members say you are good at being compassionate with yourself?
Is it possible that you are suffering from the subtle aggression of self-improvement?
Is compassion about protection from suffering or opening to it?
What if empathy does not require exoneration?
What if the true test of compassion is justice?
What is your question?
Idaho Black History Museum
Housed in the historic St. Paul Baptist Church building and located in Boise Julia Davis Park. The museum presents exhibits and provides educational and community outreach programs including lectures, films, workshops, literacy programs, and musical performances. The museum’s purpose is to build bridges between cultures to explore issues that affect Americans of all cultures and ethnicity.
IBHM has identified the following area of emphasis to work collaboratively to strengthen the Black Community in Idaho. Historically, Idaho served as a unique opportunity for Blacks and our efforts will help ensure this continues. Continuing to contribute to the unique social fabric of Idaho. Using history and present day to illustrate how the Black Community is affected, and in many cases, the contrast between Idaho and national history.
Areas of Emphasis Within Our State :
Criminal Justice Reform
Access to Health Care Advocacy
Wealth Gap Education
This list will grow and evolve, but this is where we will begin. I thank you for your continued support of Idaho Black History Museum’s mission.
IBHM Board President and Executive Director