Compassion is a response to suffering—our own, and to the pain of others. The word comes from the Latin meaning to co-suffer. Compassion is noticing pain, feeling it with another person, and then responding to it n some way.
What an exciting-mind-blowing week I’ve had! I have “Skyped” with people from all over the world, participated in Google Hangouts, recommended materials for a peace education project in Indonesia, introduced a few European schools to Canadian child advocate Mary Gordon’s Roots of Empathy, tuned in teachers to the work of Sugata Mitra, the 2013 TED award winner, and his experiment, “Hole in the Wall”, and started work with a number of schools who would like to create an action plan to become compassionate schools.
I am part of an organization called the Compassionate Action Network (CAN) International. Our work started in 2008, in Seattle following an event called Seeds of Compassion. “Seeds” was an historic series of public gatherings, discussions, and workshops that galvanized individuals, networks, and organizations around the world. More than 150,000 people participated in the 5-day event, and another 7 million viewed it on line.
Anchored by the deep wisdom of the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and other luminaries, this community-focused event celebrated and explored the relationships, programs, and tools that nurture and empower children, families, and communities to be compassionate members of society. Each of the days provided those present an opportunity to better understand the real benefits of compassion and concrete steps on how to bring compassion into their lives.
“Seeds” morphed into CAN and continued to work on the concept of compassion locally and globally. Also in 2008, Karen Armstrong, the British historian won the TEDx prize wherein she asked TED to help her create and launch a Charter for Compassion based on the fundamental principles of universal justice and respect. In November of 2009, the Charter was born, having grown from contributions of more than 150,000 people from 180 countries, crafted into a succinct, 312-word pledge. Today the work of the Charter is facilitated by the Compassionate Action Network within several sectors: business, cities, education, religion and with a strong growing interest in the health care industry.
At the heart of CAN is our work with partners. We are now over 200—collectively sharing the important work each does individually and with the end goal of partners helping partners build new collaborations. Partners have an opportunity to post information about their work on our website, through our Facebook Partner page, and through partner calls.
My role with CAN is directing the education sector and includes overseeing our primary
- working with partners so that their work is more broadly known,
- helping schools, colleges and universities explore compassionate status,
- sharing research that demonstrates how practicing compassion leads to many benefits for the individual and ultimately for society as a whole—physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially; and
- sharing the work of educators who are exploring innovative programs that challenge outmoded assumptions of human nature, and provide a new blueprint for creating a more compassionate world.
As Karen Armstrong wished in her TED talk, we want to reach every school and reacquaint ourselves, colleagues, students and parents with the importance of following through on the Golden Rule, rethinking civic responsibility, acting kindly towards others and being open to compassion.
Learn more about becoming a compassionate organization or school.