Welcome and Introduction (Marilyn Turkovich)
Marilyn: Good morning everyone and welcome to the cities call. This is Marilyn Turkovich, the director of the Charter for Compassionate International. We’re really excited because we have three guests with us today. The themes that they are going to be talking about are so entirely different but of course because they represent Charter initiatives in their own locales, there’s a real interconnection between each of these individuals and the work they’re doing.
I wanted to give you an update of where we are with our cities movement and campaign. We now have 76 cities who have affirmed the Charter, which means that they have an action plan in place, they have identified areas of concern, and that they are considering areas of sustainability.
Our biggest new city that will be joining us on May 20 will be Rotterdam in the Netherlands. They are going to have a huge festival to launch their signing of the Charter on the evening of May 20th at the Opera House with a very special performance to highlight the festival. The next day many people (several who are on this call) have prepared videos that will be played in the town square congratulating the people of Rotterdam on their compassionate initiative. We’re very, very excited about that and as I said, they will be number 76!
In addition to all of this, we have about 350 compassionate initiatives in 47 countries. Mimi Price (who is on this call) and I and Reed Price have all been working very hard to collect the stories behind each of these 350+ initiatives. If you hear from us - and even if you don’t think you have a story (because this is a long endurance drive that we’re on in writing to every single one of you) we want to hear your story. It would be wonderful if you would drop us a line and let us know where you are on your initiate. And more importantly if you haven’t started that initiative, please do let us know because we’d like to be on the ground floor with you and help you address some of the needs that you might have.
With all of that being said, I’d like to go directly into introducing our first speaker, John Kesler. John has been involved in compassion for quite some time. He was instrumental working in Salt Lake City to make sure it was a compassionate city which was very evident while many of us were at the Parliament for World Religions. Salt Lake City took a lead in many of the activities that took place and John represents a group called Utah Civil and Compassionate Communities. He has been an inspiration for grass roots organizing. If you go to the Salt Lake City page on the website, I think you’ll be able to find some of John’s work that he’s done. With that, I’m going to turn the mic over to John. Welcome, John!
Themes for Utah Civil and Compassionate Communities (John Kesler)
John: Thank you Marilyn. I’m happy to provide an overview of the work we’ve been doing. Interestingly enough in 2010 we started a civility initiative, not knowing or being really aware of the compassionate communities initiative. It was all about modeling a civic expression of the golden rule. Compassion was inherent, but we just didn’t have that explicit framing. So we organized a statewide advisory board in the state of Utah from every segment of our population and we had our capitol city mayor in Salt Lake City and our lieutenant governor from the state of Utah as our co-chairs
And we approached through the lens of the golden rule and of maturity with the perspective that a major moral maturity as your scope of carrying awareness and your skillfulness and understanding of people who are different than you, and of course implicitly that compassion is the primary lens.
After several years we wound down a little and we were looking at what could revive us. About two years ago we became aware of the Charter for Compassion and particularly the compassionate communities and decided to reorganize (benefitting from the experience we had had, working in schools and higher education communities throughout the state, and working with a lot of interfaith communities) to create a new initiative and with the Parliament being convened in Salt Lake City last October, we worked for about a year to a formal launch of Salt Lake City naming itself and taking all of the proper steps to come out as a compassionate city with our state lieutenant governor along with the Salt Lake City mayor signing the Charter for Compassion. The only hitch was that a month later, the Salt Lake City mayor who was behind all of this, Ralph Becker, lost the mayoral election so that took us several months to make sure that the new mayor was committed. And so that we could have a co-chair who is mayor of the largest county in the state, Salt Lake County, be a co-chair of the new mayor and our lieutenant governor.
Essentially our major areas we are working on is the schools - K12 education and higher education - and trying to mentor any organization or community in how to become a more civil, compassionate, and flourishing community because we see that all of those things are deeply linked. We have a curriculum of about 12 modules of training in various areas about how compassion is important in and of itself, it’s important morally but it’s also deeply important for other principles of individual and community flourishing.
We’ve been working on that, and getting ready to re-launch with the new Salt Lake City mayor coming on board. I could go into that in more detail or I could begin to engage and answer any questions that are coming along.
Marilyn: I think it would be great for people to ask you questions! One question that comes to my mind is: can you tell us a little more about the curriculum that you have? I know that is going to be of great interest to a number of people on this call.
John: Sure. We’ve divided our curriculum into four areas. One is approaching civility and compassion from your own personal perspective. So we have mindfulness training, compassionate witnessing and listening, some practices that promote compassion. We have civility training. We use a term called civil intelligence: how do you deal with people who are different than yourself appropriately and with compassion? So that’s sort of the individual approach.
We have a cultural lens that we use; we call it the collective internal lens where we work on mutual civil reciprocity and we’re very developmental in noticing that you move from being aggressive and confrontational at the most primitive level and you increasingly learn to be collaborative and cooperative and empathetic and compassionate as you mature individually and culturally.
So we have eight stages of civil reciprocity. We have a general range of community building offerings. The stronger you build your community the more open it is to mutual empathy and compassion. We have what we call the collective external lens, and that is: as you’re trying to do these things, what are the systems and processes you’re setting up that can generate creativity and train collaboration, that can help you understand that the more that you work locally and the more you can do if you connect globally. And have some training related to creativity and getting things done. In other words, we’re trying to create a fairly comprehensive curriculum that is grounded in the theme of compassion but also how do you organize in a community or organization to really be effective in getting some things done.
Marilyn: Is there anyone in our group who has a question or reflection on what’s been shared? If so, just press one on your telephone keypad. Lynn, your mic is on.
Lynn Mystic-Healer: I’ve been working, I had a move on petition out there for community services that would give people $2600 a month guaranteed income with single payer to create the new paradigm on the planet locally and globally and have all the different churches and 501C3s and NGOs come together. That’s what I’m working on, for new applications for signing up for these new community services that go beyond race or religion or dogmas or what-have-you. I’m just wondering, I’m really focused now on housing the homeless. It’s a critical one that we’re working on. I need help with the Healing Arts and Transformation Service Centers to be open 24/7 to develop the new health and human services and social healer services that are really needed. You know, like healing touch practitioners, all kinds of Reiki, all kinds of HTP, transformational coaches, self-help programs, that could be integrated into every community so that we actually take care of the people suffering with addiction and coping skills and mental health problems. We have medical hypnosis that heals moderate to severe psychiatric disorders. It even has an insurance code – no one knows. So I’d really like to see an integration of these new health and human service programs developed that are open 24/7 in every community so that we can really go to the next level of healing forces instead of all the drugs and the killing and violence and warring forces. Can you help with that?
John: Wow, that’s really impressive and a wonderful, broad goal. I think where we have something that’s the most applicable to what you’re talking about is the goals that have been set on the state level of Salt Lake City and our county relating to a compassionate community, the one thing they have in common as a priority is homelessness. We are exploring how to create a more holistic service-oriented approach including some of the qualities that you’re talking about in the homeless area. One wonderful initiative we picked up on is called Homeless Connect in San Francisco which brings the entire community in to be supportive of the homeless and take them individually around to collect the services available and we’re trying to attract that more holistic, whole-person centered approach to it.
So that’s the lens that we’re using and we have a good, experienced person helping us coordinate it and we’re just launching a learning community. I’d be delighted to interface with you if that lens that we’re using might be applicable to what you’re trying to do.
Marilyn: And Lynn I was just going to say, we can definitely talk. We have on our assessment segment of the Charter Community Tool Box, we have health. This would be another area where we could extend the assessment and perhaps involve you to help with that and make that available to our whole community. I also want to piggy back on what John was saying - Las Vegas (one of our newer initiatives) has really worked very hard on two 24 hour clinics, so I would like to put you in touch with them so that you can see and share with what you’re talking about. I’m going to move on because we do have a couple more hands up here. One is Teresa Cowan Jones. Teresa your mic is on, so go ahead.
Teresa: Hi John. I remember at the World Parliament hearing about Salt Lake City’s End Homelessness initiative. Is that something that you are all formally working on as a particular program or did you just address that in the last question?
John: I began to address it. One thing that Salt Lake City has pioneered is the housing first approach, where a lot of housing has been developed so that virtually anybody that can be identified in any stable way, you can get them into housing first then work on other issues. We’re working on a garden project particularly where particularly homeless women will learn some skills and the food that they garden will be available to the community. We have some various approaches. I mentioned the Homeless Connect approach which invites the broader community in to one-on-one accompany people who have a homeless status to identify services that they can make available. We’re just launching that now and we’ll get funding on it in July. We’re very interested and it’s one of main areas of emphasis. And we’re looking forward to comparing notes with anyone with similar interests.
Marilyn: Great, and John I know that when we were together in Salt Lake City, we had talked about your group perhaps putting together a case study as a learning tool for other city initiates and the same thing was asked of ?? Jameson about the work that they’ve been doing in Las Vegas with the health clinics. So we should revisit that because I think that it really would be an excellent tool for others. Marie Roker Jones, your microphone is on.
Marie: Hi, how are you? I have a question. We’re starting an initiative here in New York City: CompassionConvos. One of the challenges is really getting the key players and people that are interested together, because we want to focus on youth. I wanted to get an idea of how you were able to get everyone together to focus on K-12 and develop the curriculum, and what the steps would be. Because even though we do have these interested parties, it’s been difficult getting everyone together. I’m not sure if I should go to the school district or just – where to start, how to start having this conversation instead of in different areas but having them with some of the key players, all at once.
John: Well, the approach we took which worked quite well was that we identified a few school superintendents who are particularly well known for being successful in leading their school districts to be on our advisory board. And then there’s the whole area of civic, character, and service learning that in every school district you are going to have content experts in that area and ultimately when you work with people in that area, they’re always involved in what are the core values and how do we teach those and how to we create engagement and service, a wonderful overlap with anything related to compassion and civility.
We’ve been able to identify the most experienced people we could find who are more than willing to find additional outlets to work in those areas. I’m sure those tremendous resource people are there and available. Go to a few particularly successful school districts and find their best content people - at least that’s the way that we approached it and it seemed to work pretty well.
Marilyn: Thank you for that, John. Marie, I think John really hit on it about the service learning people in various districts. I know there’s been success with that in Seattle. I’m not saying the road was easy but none the less that was the group once they were found that really got invested in doing something. I think the other great thing is that there are a number of Charter partners and individual cities that have been developing a curriculum and one of the things is that we really don’t want to reinvent the wheel but rather look at some things that have been done. I’ve been talking to one of our main volunteers about us maybe having an education series of talks so that teachers and superintendents and principals could get involved and let us know about their interest and what has been developed and how we can go about sharing this information.
Sacred Space Helps with the Initiation of Compassionate Tucson (Teresa Cowan Jones)
We are going to move a little south from Utah down to Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is one of our newer cities to affirm the Charter. Teresa Cowan Jones has been one of the grass roots group leaders in Tucson and she is also responsible for a project called Sacred Space. In the last month or so, I think her mind has been pushed to seeing how Tucson and the cities of Monterrey and the State of Nuevo Leon in Mexico can do some cooperation. So I asked Teresa if she would share some of her work with us and invite conversation.
Sacred Space and Communicating across the Border (Teresa Cowan Jones)
Teresa: I’ll start by talking about -- we had to build a little more infrastructure for compassion here in Tucson. But I’ll back up and share that after the shootings in 2011 of Gabrielle Giffords and others, our community programming around compassion was increased. There was a national civility organization created at the University of Arizona, and there are other organizations here in Tucson - Beyond Tucson is another – so there was already a lot of movement around compassion here, especially after 2011.
Since that time we’ve organized the Compassion Coalition organization with 18 organizations here, www.thecompassioncoalition.org to essentially help us convene all of the organizations that have compassion at their core so that we can be aware of each other’s programming and support each other’s programming and not schedule on top of each other’s programming. In other words kind of function as an asset map and increase awareness about compassion programming in the southern Arizona area.
I created a community called Sacred Space, which is an initiative to bridge traditional divides through story-telling and contemplative practice and music. That’s a weekly gathering and in some ways it’s like a mini Parliament of Religions in your local area. It’s a replicable model that we’ve created. We’re trying to write a grant right now to make it available in every compassionate city or to anybody that wants it and you can learn more about that at www.sacredspacetucson.org. It’s something that any city can replicate. It’s a very low cost initiative for people to come together across traditional divides: religion, culture, race, social class.
So I’ll let you know some of the infrastructure of Sacred Space first and then we can drill down, depending on people’s interest, any one of these. We also have a small group structure through Sacred Space that meets weekly. That started with looking at Karen Armstrong’s book, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life. We created a three-hour free facilitator training for that and have been running groups. So did another organization here in Tucson, the Center for Community Dialogue (http://www.ourfamilyservices.org/programs/center.html) – another one of those organizations that sprung up after those shootings. So we’ve run several groups based on that book. Sacred Space has partnered with the mayor’s office to create what we were calling The Mayor’s Book Group but now we’re calling the Tucson Leader’s Book Group. Sacred Space and Compassion Coalition is more a grass roots movement of compassion. The Tucson Leader’s Book Group is more a trust incubator, as is Sacred Space, to form social capital among their sectors of the community and especially among different jurisdictions and political parties within the community. So that book group is more focused on people who are positional leaders. So for instance right now the Tucson Leader’s Book Group is looking at Karen Armstrong’s book meeting monthly, working through that book one chapter at a month. It’s a deeply personal way to get together and share about compassion and how we relate to it both individually but how to we build it collectively in our community. That’s exciting for me because who we’ve engaged in the group holds a lot of promise for our community. So people who traditionally were on different sides of the fence: the chief of police, the mayor, a school superintendent, a town manager, two county supervisors, a physician, United Way VP, a community investment director from an electric power company here, a couple of business men, and a couple non-profit leaders as well.
Lastly I’ll mention that there was an invitation put out from Monterrey, Mexico for a mayor to come speak at an event because there were several places around Monterrey that were trying to become compassionate cities. Our mayor committed to traveling there but then he was selected to be a super delegate in the democratic primary. He is committed to helping Monterrey but we are now rescheduling that.
I should also say that before all of this happened, before 2011, in 2003 our state legislature created a golden rule charter for the state. Also the Arizona Interfaith Movement nominates people for an golden rule award from the state and they have a banquet and they do a golden rule license plate that you can buy. I’m not aware of what impact those state movements have had. But that’s one reason why we felt the need to come together across organizations because another concern that I had was that our peace and justice movement had stalled. We are so focused as non-profits raising money to sustain our own institutions that social movement has stalled toward compassion I think, because of it.
So the Compassion Coalition and Sacred Space were created as an antidote to that, a mechanism for relationship building and a way of building social and spiritual capital within the community for the purpose of compassionate action and social change.
Marilyn: Thank you Teresa. If there’s anyone with a question or comment, please press 1. Lynn?
Lynn: The thing I keep seeing over and over again in every community is the violence and the warring paradigm with the drugging and guns and abuse and what have you. They’re still signing up people with an application for for-pay volunteers for militarism with single payer. So how to get your groups and all your connections to go “you know what, we are going to pay people to sign up, we have a new application for volunteer for all the 501C3’s” Anyway, so to get people to go at heart and soul level sign up for these other community services, jobs, programs, jobs for all not guns and jail and warring. And then get the single payer attached to those programs with this guaranteed monthly income. And again really focusing on the new healing arts and transformation centers with all the transformation coaches, movement therapy, soul parenting, singing, dancing, soul therapies, on and on and on. We can offer so much with the internet to help heal our veterans and get them out of that military training program, but we really need to focus on this guaranteed income for the new jobs with single payer to get them away from the militarized single payer benefit job openings. Thank you.
Marilyn: Okay, I don’t see any other hands but perhaps before we’re finished something else will materialize. The third person that I asked to do a presentation for you is Caren Golden. This has no reflection on Caren’s age but the fact is that St. Augustine in Florida was one of the very first and one of our oldest compassionate initiatives within the Charter. They have been doing outstanding work in a number of different areas. I think that Caren can certainly address that.
In the last month or so, something happened in the St Augustine area and I thought it might be very interesting for Caren to share what that was and how the compassionate community rose up and invited others to join in that struggle. Caren, your mic is on!
A Community Responses to Islamophobia (Caren Goldman)
Caren: Thank you Marilyn! The incident that Marilyn refers to is one of several that we’ve been involved with concerning the Muslim community. I think it’s helpful to say that St Augustine is small - only 14,000 people. Our work extends beyond the city limits and into the county which is important in this case because our interfaith multicultural efforts have been very successful and we wouldn’t be doing it if we were just basing it on the population of the greater core of what’s called St. Augustine as the city vs. the outlying areas that are considered part of it.
The incident that Marilyn is referring to is that on A1A which most of you probably know if you’re in the eastern part of the country; it travels the whole coast from north to south. A1A is part of the city of St. Augustine and then the next city is St. Augustine Beach. A billboard went up in St Augustine Beach. It was a very anti-Muslim billboard. It was black; if you go to our Facebook page, the compassionate St. Augustine, you can look it up. It had a bloody knife in it, and it said “Islam bloody Islam doomed by your doctrine”
Reed: For those of you on social webinar, I’ve just put it up so you can see it there.
Caren: As soon as it became known and I say that because it has to be the very worst billboard location in the entire county. You can pass it, it’s right on A1A, and not see it because of trees and other things. So as soon as it became known, and it was through the effort of somebody who was not then part of St. Augustine but is now. A young woman had a petition to take it down and immediately started getting signatures and I immediately started getting phone calls.
A couple of things relate to this. I’ll come back to the other incidents that had taken place. But essentially what was immediately happening was there were tons of knee-jerk reactions to what everyone should do about the billboard. And we’re very much about looking at things from a very systems-oriented approach and we spent a lot of time over the next few days talking to people about how we needed to be responsive and not reactive. We still don’t know who paid for the message but we do know that the owner of the billboard is not particularly interested in taking it down. We have lots of different people in different areas working on this. It potentially could be the billboard owner as well. What started to happen is at least people were not doing shoot from the hip type of things. They were helping the petition go viral, they were talking to each other instead of about each other, that type of thing.
Coincidentally I happened to be in a walk-run for the domestic violence shelter. Their t-shirts were red t-shirts with a huge peace sign. When I finished the race I asked what they were doing with the leftover t-shirts. And they weren’t quite sure. And they said you can buy them (meaning compassionate St. Augustine) or if you want to donate them that would be great. But what we’d like to do is very quietly organize as large a group as we can and take a photo underneath the billboard with these t-shirts on. And be responding to the billboard, and not vilifying whoever it was in terms of the golden rule, who put this up.
They decided to donate the t-shirts and what we said is that in exchange we would ask people for donations for $0.10 or $10.00 for whatever they wanted to give, and they gave us about 100 t-shirts. We did not put the organized time for the photo shoot on any social media whatsoever because we did not want a counter protest. Instead people through email and word of mouth showed up on Sunday afternoon. We had 90 people there in t-shirts. We took the group photo. We had press coverage; you can find it on our Facebook page. One of them is a very moving piece that I believe Marilyn will put up on the Charter for Compassion site.
As a result of that, two things happened. One: the video is going viral and being used by different groups. The other thing is that we raised $1000 in 45 minutes for the Betty Griffin house. So there was a tremendous win-win component to it. This isn’t the first time that we’ve had to step into a situation that has to do with Islamophobia. Last fall in September, the Islamic Center - we don’t have a mosque here, the mosque is in Jacksonville; we have an Islamic Center with a rather large community that uses it for prayer and other events. An identified hate group started protesting outside the Islamic Center with assault weapons so it was a very serious thing in terms of how the Islamic community was responding and reacting to it. We had worked very hard for a couple years to have a relationship with the Islamic community. They had been very insulated at the time. Our interfaith initiatives group came up with the idea of going out to the center at the time that they were going to be having their Friday afternoon prayers and calling upon people from all over to come show solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. The group also had cake and lemonade available on the site right at the place where the protesters were going back and forth.
Several things happened as a result. Once again, a show of responsiveness rather than reactivity. We weren’t there to protest, but to show solidarity. The sheriff’s department got rid of the assault weapons. We brokered a conversation with the protesters. It turns out that they were claiming that if these really were Americans and not terrorists, there would be an American flag on the property.
So basically what happened was we brought the leaders from the Islamic Center to talk to them and they agreed to have an American flag. So the protestor handed over an American flag for them to raise, and it was upside down. The leader of the Interfaith Initiative said “why is it upside down?” and they said “well this is the sign of a country in distress” and she took the flag and she handed it back to them and took the flag from another protestor and said “I think it’s important for you to have the one showing the distress and we’ll use this one.”We found some duct tape and we taped it to a light pole.
In the meantime one of the members form the Islamic Center who owns a pizzeria showed up with 20 boxes of pizza. The protestors had brought ham and bacon sandwiches to the mosque and they were offering so I had a feeling basically they didn’t know at all what they were doing but they were also partaking in the food that we had available and there were all sorts of conversations that were going on. When they were invited to join afternoon prayers in the Islamic Center they refused was because it’s a weapons free zone and they were still all carrying weapons. So the potential for something to happen otherwise was really huge.
The next day the leaders of the Islamic center and the leaders of the protest met on the property and the Islamic center agreed to put up an American flag and the protesters posted on Facebook that they had “won and now we have to go to the next Islamic center or mosque and do the same thing.”
So I think they very quietly went away and the whole activity which really had the potential for something bad to happen was distilled in a very peaceful and constructive way.
Not to take too much more time but the bridge in between is that we have been working very directly with the school board about bullying one Muslim student in particular but several students. We’ve worked out some very wonderful and creative options for the school where this has been taking place that will be carried over to other schools in the system.
Marilyn: Great, thank you Caren. Does anyone have a comment or question? I apologize for not mentioning at the top of the conversation what the order of the call was. But it was to listen to our three speakers and then to hear from people on the call and have them introduce themselves and the place in the world from which they are from, and to let us know what’s happening in their community and also if there’s any reflections or questions, this would be a great time.
I asked Reed Price who is one of the people who helps with the Charter if he would field this portion of the call. I’ll work the board and call on people. I don’t want to just call on you without your permission but certainly if you raise your hand I will call on you. We have our first person, Denise.
Questions and Discussion (moderated by Reed Price)
Denise: My name is Denise Downing. I live in Islamorada in the Florida Keys. I represent a group called Keys to Peace (http://keystopeace.com/). We have recently partnered with the Charter. One of the things that we are going to be doing along with two of our local churches at the end of May is to have an Islam101 gathering. Our Episcopal priest is very close with an imam in the Broward County area. The imam is very involved in interfaith activities in Broward County which is about two hours away from us. So he will be coming for the weekend bringing several members from his mosque and we will have an activity that will be Islam101 for an hour, where he will talk to members of our community and give us background on the religion. And then that will be followed with a session for an hour made up from different members in our community - we do not have an Islamic presence or center here. That will be question and answer panel discussion and that will be followed with a meal. We’re really looking forward to that and this is the first time we have done anything like that. And I’d love to find out what other people have done of a similar nature.
Marilyn: Thank you Denise. I’m going to just interfere here for a minute from Reed and say that the Charter for Compassion has put out the Islamophobia Guidebook. It’s featured on the first page of our site. It’s there for you; it’s a PDF so you can print it out and make it available. It’s quite long but there’s a lot of information and material there.
Reed: I see that Cathy O’keefe has her hand up. Cathy, you have the mic.
Cathy: This is great! I’m Cathy Okeefe. I live in Mobile Alabama. I moved here in 1969 to be more involved in racial justice and those kinds of initiatives after the civil rights act was passed. I have been a community activist for several years. Mobile is the home of the longest continuous running Jewish-Christian dialogue in the US. We also now have a trialogue including the Muslim community that’s been very successful. And Spring Hill College, a Jesuit college, the oldest college in the state of Alabama helps to coordinate the trialogue. We meet around topics and then we have speakers related to the topics like the afterlife or the use of money or family rituals and the speakers share from their own tradition. Then we have dialogue at round tables and at every table there are Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
We also got involved with something called The Atlantic Institute a number of years ago. This was an effort that came out of Turkey largely related to a man named Fatula Gulen who now lives in exile in the United States. He had a vision much like Gandhi of a world where everyone could live peacefully and respectfully towards one another. He did a whole lot of sending out young Turkish Muslim men to different areas to do educational initiatives and things like that.
Our city has been active in the Charter for a while and we attended the parliament in Salt Lake, my husband and I. He does a lot of work in death row and with a community called L’Arche (https://www.larcheusa.org/). It’s an international federation of communities started in 1964 by Jean Vanier that brings intellectually disabled people together with other folks and we share our lives together.
Mobile has not yet become a city of compassion. I’ve been trying to figure out the best the way to orchestrate it. It is not easy at times to penetrate a culture here that is largely fueled by lack of education and anti-intellectualism. But there is such a core group of wonderful people who would go to the net for any of the issues you all have talked about today for all the right reasons. I like to learn about people who are doing what I would like to see in our own city and ramp up a more collaborative effort and see if we can’t be a city of compassion and move forward.
It’s an absolute joy to be on the call with all of ya’ll today. I’ve lived in Mobile Alabama since 69 and my children were all involved in a program called “Any Town.” I don’t know if you know this program; I don’t even know if it’s functioning anymore. It came out of the National Conference for Christians and Jews which then morphed into the National Conference for Community and Justice. We had a camp every summer for 10th graders. We intentionally stacked the camp with kids from every different religion and race and privilege. Then we would do an intensive week of getting those kids to face their own prejudices, share with each other, and by the end of the week the kids were so tight and they went back out into the schools afterwards and were representatives for justice and tolerance and brotherhood in their high schools. My kids did that for about six years as leaders of that project.
I just think that if we can talk like we are today about different things – I’ve learned a lot from some of you already about things I could possibly do to pull some of our similar groups together. I appreciate the chance to be in the company of like-minded people who have the same values and ideals that my husband and I share with you all. And move forward. So, thank you for sharing today. I’m honored to be on the call.
Reed: Marilyn, you had a comment? Thank you Cathy.
Marilyn: I was just going to respond Cathy, to the fact that we would love for Mobile to register as an initiative. I encourage you to go to the Charter for Compassion site. And under communities, you’ll find “Steps to Take” under the overview. There are 16 steps that we suggest, and also the Charter Community Toolbox that you could look at. And the third option is we would really like to talk about how you could move forward with all of the good things that are already in place to work towards an initiative. I think the majority of people who have done that on this call will tell you that it takes a couple of years to even begin to go through many of the things that you’re going through, so congratulations on what you’re doing!
Reed: Yes, I would love to hear from someone about some of the frustrations and some of the breakthroughs that you’ve had in working in your community. I’d love for somebody to press one and talk a little bit about the challenges and opportunities on this road. I don’t know if that’s what you’re going to do Marie, but you have the microphone! Marie Roker Jones.
Marie: Hey Reed, that’s what I’m going to do! I’m Marie Roker Jones founder of CompassionConvos here in New York City. I would say that some of our challenges have been really getting people together to work on this so that it’s not individual efforts but that all of us are working towards a common goal. So, coming together to share this idea around compassionate action and working with youth. That’s a key challenge. And also, just getting people to better understand what the Charter is doing. Getting the mayor’s office to have a better understanding of why this is important.
Some of the successes is that we have made great contacts and met wonderful people that are interested. We have great support both within and outside of New York City which keeps me excited and motivated. One of them is Sommer with the Compassion Games – that’s really one of the resources we’ve been using.
We have an event next week with a church regarding gun violence and gun safety and having the talk around the right to bear arms vs. gun control. Again it’s centered around youth and getting them to create compassion teams for the compassion games to address this situation within our city, particularly within low-income areas of our city. It’s a mixed bag but if you focus on the work you’re doing and not so much on the progress, it keeps you going and excited. I’m just happy about all the people I’m meeting on this journey. Hopefully we’ll have more exciting stuff to share about New York City. We’re planning something in September with other organizations.
Reed: Yes, I think it’s important to remember that the work we’re doing each day may be having impact beyond our awareness. That a lot of this is putting little drops of compassion into the pool of humanity and letting those rings go out and recognize that you may not know how you are touching someone.
The toolbox that Marilyn mentioned suggests focusing on one or two key projects that you might be able to find some resonance within your community. For me, working on Bainbridge Island, that has been a challenge – finding something that is going to catch on and get momentum. Caren was talking about this in St. Augustine. They started working with art, but obviously they’ve been doing a lot of work in this trialogue, reaching out to the Muslim community and recognizing compassionate action to others. So it can change over time and that’s an important thing to remember as well. Teresa, do you have something you’d like to throw in here?
Teresa: Yes, just a couple things. In many communities – I don’t think Tucson is particularly unique in this regard. We started having traction through interfaith community building. In most communities there’s some kind of interfaith agency of some sort. But if you look deeply into those, they’re often event-based or episodic. So for instance, there might be a gay pride march where several different faiths show up or one type of worship service where they all worship together, but it’s maybe like four times a year or something like that. As an ordained clergy person I have gone to many of those. And I’ve realized that even though they ostensibly get faiths interacting, there’s really usually not enough time for relationship building. So even though your community may have an interfaith body, if you look deeply into it, it’s overly focused on one particular thing and again, relationship building kind of gets dropped or overlooked. I think it’s a critical first step in making compassion real in our communities. In other words, collaboration is often assumed to be happening or that we know how to do it, or that interfaith work is already happening, inter-organizational work is already happening. That’s our common assumption. I think if you look deeply in most of our communities there’s probably room for a relationship building mechanism to be introduced.
So instead of looking at our communities with the lens of cause as the first step (although I think that can be very impactful, like for instance homelessness and taking on that issue) I think you can get traction by simply creating a mechanism that builds relationships – whether that’s a coalition of organizations or something like Sacred Space that gets people together every single week. In other words a deep community building trust incubation mechanism, that is often overlooked but something that can easily be addressed. Frequency becomes key, how frequently we get together becomes critical. I just wanted to mention that.
Reed: Thank you very much Teresa. I do invite anyone who’d like to pop in and say who you are and where you’re from. Press one on your keypad and I’d love to recognize you! You don’t necessarily need to have a particular insight; we’d just like to get the conversation going. Caren, I think you are probably responding to something you’ve just heard. Go ahead, you have the microphone.
Caren: Just speaking very briefly to address our relationship piece that we’ve been talking about - from our experience here in St Augustine and I believe this is true in most communities, most of your governing body when they meet once or twice a month, they have a time basically for open mic. Here it happens to be three minutes of appropriate free speech as opposed to something that’s not civil. But it’s a time when loads of people come in and complain about the city. Sometimes it goes on endlessly! What we started doing even very early on was we would have one of the people from our advisory board go to the meeting and address something during those three minutes that complimented a compassionate action within the city. It became such a breath of fresh air for the city leaders and the people there.
In our case the meetings are recorded on cable TV and people watch them at home. We’ve gotten huge feedback. We don’t do it all the time but whenever we go we do something like that. That’s one way of getting community response and community branding, if you will.
The other way is there are times that we do things that are interfaith related, in other words the interfaith gathering at the basilica in response to the billboard to have clergy of all denominations as well as Native American and whatnot for a very short 45 minute service was huge. There were probably at least 450 people in attendance. That was in response to something in the community. The billboard was never spoken about but the community gathered in response to it. And it was called an interfaith gathering.
What I’ve learned through these years is that talking about it being intercultural invites people who are not of any faith whatsoever or they’re spiritual but not connected to a religious community to start to take part in a lot of these events that really have meaning for them but they feel excluded otherwise. I think what this really is worldwide is intercultural as opposed to an interfaith movement. It can’t be interfaith movement in terms of the relationship of the Charter for Compassion with city and state and actually country governments at this time. It has to be a certain secular relationship that has components that are interfaith or intercultural. The semantics we have found to be extremely important in inviting people to events and to the table.
And then finally, very briefly, what we have done for two years in a row now. Last year we had a month of forgiveness and compassion that was declared by the city because we’re in partnership with them that included major events like the forgiveness project, F-word exhibit was here, we had panels, we had workshops, we had a city-wide reading program. We did the same thing in a different way this year with a month of criminal justice and prison reform during black history month because the largest number of people incarcerated in the country are black people. It went city wide with all different kinds of events, many of them self-generated by people who are not necessarily part of Compassionate St. Augustine but did so by forming a reading group of the book that we used and that type of thing.
So those type of events that are both in partnership with the city but also highlight what it is that you’re doing to the press then brings press responds also that of course helps to brand what you’re trying to do at a grassroots level.
Reed: Thank you, Caren. I think that Karen Armstrong’s original idea was definitely to look beyond interfaith movements, not that she wouldn’t of course - being a religious scholar - have a great understanding of the moral and justice principles of all the world’s faiths. But that in our time there is a need for a recognition that beyond any particular path there are some universals here. There other thing that you mentioned that we heard from Teresa earlier was the ideas of some kind of an ongoing activity as a way to build deep connections with people who will share the interest of compassion. Marilyn maybe you can talk a little bit about something that we at the Charter might be able to help with in terms of that kind of ongoing activity: the Global Read.
Promoting the Education Institute and the Global Read (Marilyn)
Marilyn: Absolutely! I don’t know if people have noticed that in the last couple of newsletters we have talked about the Global Read. We have selected three books for the remainder of this year. The first global read is coming up in June with Marc Barasch’s book. Marc is a fairly outstanding individual responsible for creating an organization called The Green Earth Charter . We will be meeting with Marc, and reading his book which is The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness. That will be on June 18th. That will be followed by Mark Gerzon. Mark has a long history of really helping with initiatives around the world. Most recently he has written a book called: The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide. That will be in September, right before the election. It’s an opportunity for us to begin to think that we are independently minded people concerned with issues and we want to bring those issues to the forefront.
The last book for 2016 is Kathleen Dean Moore’s book. She has been with us for environmental calls and she is an outstanding individual. I encourage you to go to YouTube and look at some of her talks. She has a brand new book called Great Tide Rising.
We’re looking forward to those three books. Anything that you can do to make our global read program a local read program – so conversations could be taking place in libraries, who might sponsor the global read program locally. It would be an opportunity for everyone involved in these conversations to join us with the authors themselves to talk about specific topics. So that certainly is one way to get involved on a regular basis. We have some books chosen for 2017. We’re looking at other suggestions, but the one that we’re most excited about and working with the author and agent and publisher is: If Mayors Ruled the World. We’re very excited about offering that as part of the book club in 2017.
One of the things that I think could be of interest to all of you is our brand new education institute. We started out very simply with one course, the Emotional Intelligence and Compassion. That has become an extremely popular course and we continue to offer it. We are also launching four new courses in May. If you go to the main page on our website and scroll down, you’ll see education institute and the spring offerings. We are gearing up for the offering for September and Teresa Cowan Jones will be doing one of those sessions. Many of them are open access sessions meaning that you can do them whenever you want and you can be in touch with the instructor and have a back and forth dialogue.
So those are two things that hopefully you’ll get excited about, get involved with, and talk to others about.
Reed: And a third thing is the idea of holding a charter salon. We have put together a slideshow either in PowerPoint or video and a series of materials that you can find by going through all of the sectors on the website that describe some of the various ways that organizations and individuals have been supportive of the Charter and also material that describes how cities like yours are organizing. You could get together a group of as few as 7 or 8 or as many as 30 to describe the work of the Charter and invite people to consider supporting the work both with their time and with their treasure.
Marilyn: That sounds fantastic. I think one of the hardest things that we face in the work that we do is asking for money. As you know, the Charter for Compassion is a grassroots organization. We live on membership dues that people willingly give us and these new initiatives with the education institute in particular and also the Charter salons are ways of really getting to a new audience but also enriching the lives of the audience that we have.
Any ideas that you have, information about how we might contact corporations or other individuals or even if you have a lead to a foundation - we are open to everything and we would appreciate anything that you can give. We are very appreciative of a couple of our local city initiatives who have pledged money to the Charter. Atlanta has done that, St. Augustine, Dallas Fort Worth, and Fayetteville have stepped up to the plate and are giving us what they can. We would encourage you to consider that as well.
We have a few minutes before we close down and there are a number of people on this call that we haven’t heard from. We’d really love to hear from a couple of you, because your names certainly are new! Raise your hand if we haven’t heard form you! We’d love the introduction. If you’d just like to say who you are and where you’re from. We’d love to call on you and just learn that much. Don’t be shy! We are a very friendly and compassionate group of people!
Reed: Absolutely. So if Lata, or Cathy or --
Marilyn: You’re just naming them out!
Reed: I’m just inviting them in case they don’t know how to press the 1 button, that’s all!
Marilyn: Okay, Lata knows how. Welcome Lata!
Lata: Hello, this is Lotta and I am from Miami and I have attended before a phone conference like this. It was organized by the Compassionate Network instead of the Charter for Compassion.
Marilyn: It is. Thank you for coming on board! Please consider doing it again! I know that there are people interested in Miami becoming a compassionate community! We’re glad to have you on board.
Lata: If you can send me contact info for those that you know of in Miami that are interested, let me know.
Marilyn: Okay very good, thank you. I think we scared people away because a few people dropped off when we asked! Denise, go ahead.
Denise: I just wanted to tell Lotta, I am about an hour from Miami. I’d love to connect with Lotta. I’ll call you after this phone call.
Marilyn: In about 72 hours after this call we’ll put out a report. Normally I do not include peoples email addresses, but I blind copy people. If you are interested in other peoples’ information just let me know and we’ll send it out. Reed, I interrupted you.
Marilyn: We are getting very close to the end. There’s still a couple of people on this call that will remain a mystery to us but I think we’ll be able to go on through life hoping that eventually they’ll let us know who they are. Cathy Warren has stepped forward! Cathy, your mic is on!
Cathy: I’m from Ashland Oregon and I’m part of the race coalition and some interfaith dialogues we have here. We have a lot of different groups working for different goals and I think the idea of putting them all together would be very helpful.
Marilyn: Great. And again, I’d encourage people to go to the community toolbox but especially steps to take. That’s one of the first things that we talk about as a possible step.
In closing, thank you all for participating, and especially to the three individuals (John, Teresa, and Caren) who shared their ideas of what is happening in their local communities. Our next call will be June 8th. Our invited guest that day is Tam Martin O'Fowles. Tam started with trying to put together a compassionate Penzance in the U.K. but not only did she do Compassionate Penzance but she did the entire county of Cornwall and now she is working with initiatives in Soweto and Johannesburg. We’re really excited that she’ll be a part of the call. June 8th - and of course we will get out more information and the link for registration and we hope that you’ll put it on your calendar.
Thank you all very, very much. It is our tradition that as we part we turn on everyone’s mic and we have a chance to say goodbye to one another.
Center for Community Dialogue: http://www.ourfamilyservices.org
Compassion Coalition: http://www.compassioncoalition.org/
Compassionate St. Augustine, FL: http://www.compassionstaugustine.org
Healing Arts Centers: http://www.thehealingartscenter.com/
Sacred Space Tucson: https://www.sacredspacetucson.org/
Save the Children: http://stand.org/oregon
Utah Civil and Compassionate Communities: http://slcgov.com/civility
From the Charter Website
Charter for Compassion's Global Read: http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/let-s-have-a-global-read
Islamophobia Guide Book: http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/compassion-and-religion/islamophobia-guidebook
Suggested Procedural Steps for Organizing a Community/City Initiatives: http://www.charterforcompassion.org/index.php/communities/overview