I believe a compassionate community is one that acts and makes decisions in response to the recognition of needs within their community – needs that are common to humanity.
The community orients itself to the idea of reciprocity – featuring common human values such as kindness, acceptance, understanding, gratitude, forgiveness, love and empathy. Each of these common human values, then, translate into compassionate action through not only programs and services, but every day decisions and actions. Compassion becomes a way of life within the community.
A compassionate community builds on its strengths, and is brave enough to take an honest look at areas where they are weak and works to strengthen these as well. A compassionate community acts with integrity and is transparent about the work they are doing, while never causing harm to any of its members.
One of the needs common to humanity is a sense of belonging. Therefore, I tend to measure compassion by the way one is received by members of the community. Yet, compassion extends beyond what we receive as a member of a particular community. It’s also about how someone is able to give.
I believe people, consciously or unconsciously, ask, “How am I, in this community, able to contribute, either as an individual or as part of a collective?” In other words, does each member feel welcome and valued? Does the community offer enough so that every member has an opportunity provided to them so that each might have a sense of purpose within the community?
I believe compassion could be contagious because once compassion is present and starts to gain momentum, it becomes part of the culture of a community. Compassion is action – it takes effort and an open heart and…an open mind. Being compassionate is a choice we make in each moment of our lives – whether we are deciding to be compassionate with another member of the community or compassionate with our own being.
The desire to act with compassion exists within each of us – it is part of our design. When the community places value on this in each of its members, compassion will permeate its culture and its members. And, as a result, the community as a whole, will thrive.
~Kate Trnka, founder of The Sacred Earth Institute – a place to re-member your authentic self by reconnecting with the natural world. She recently retired from a career as a public school teacher where she taught for over 26 years. Kate is currently working on her second book in a series, “If These Trees Could Talk, Park 2: Messages from the Trees of High Cliff State Park”along with other educational projects. She enjoys volunteering as the Environment Sector Director for the Charter for Compassion – an international organization dedicated to connecting people and organizations working to promote The Golden Rule.