Priyanka Pandey: What Does It Take For a Compassionate Community?
A community is made up of families and families are made of individuals. It follows that a compassionate community is made up of compassionate families. And compassionate families must have compassionate individuals at their root.
One way that reflects the state of our emotional health and how compassionate we are as a community is in how we take care of elderly parents and grandparents in our families. So how are we taking care of the elderly? There are many among us who are grateful and respectful towards our parents. And we do the best within our capacities to take care of them. We come across many examples of adult children’s respectful caretaking of old parents, from those who take out every bit of time from their busy lives to take care of ailing parents to those who are there whenever parents have a need.
But some others may hold a grudge and feel that parents did not do enough for us, and yet some others may feel poorly treated as children, in one way or another, by parents. If we ask ourselves whether our parents provided a home for us, kept us safe, fed, clothed, and sent us to school when we were children, the answer is likely to be yes for the majority of us. Then we should ask if this is not enough to be grateful to our parents for. Apparently, the answer for some might be no because we see around us many heart-breaking stories of parents being treated less than well in old age even when their physical needs are met. In addition, many a times grown children might not think or be cognizant of the adversities their parents may have faced in their own childhoods. And yet most parents continue to be compassionate towards children, irrespective of the treatment they receive. They don’t give up and continue to be there when the children need them. This right here is a call for compassion.
Compassion in action would be when we as individual parts of our families can root out the attitude of disregard towards the elderly. Of course, respectful and healthy disagreements are natural to occur within a family because views can differ. But compassion would be when we do not speak negatively or denigrate older family members just as we would not like others to speak about us in that manner. It is when every member treats others in the family with the same regard and care with which s(he) would like to be treated herself. And refrains from inflicting pain on another, that they would not like inflicted on themselves. It is a simple, and yet may seem hard, rule often missed.
Compassion is rooted in empathy. And empathy requires that we put ourselves in another’s shoes; that we listen to others with our full presence, emptying our minds of the urge to offer advice, correct, judge, compare or explain our own position. Compassion does begin at home before it can be taken out in the world. We have to look no further than ourselves. It is in one’s everyday words and actions. Words based in compassion connect and bring us together and those based in a lack of compassion disconnect and divide us in a family. Same for our actions. When individuals take responsibility for their words and actions, what will our world look like then? One where every person in a family has dignity, respect, and a voice that is heard.
~Priyanka Pandey works part of the time for an international development organization. Key areas of her work include social and economic inequality and education including the role of social and emotional skills in fostering a peaceful and just world.