It was a night of sparkle and shine on Sunday (April 27), with the fairy lights that rim the arches of the Franciscan Center at Lourdes University embracing the tables bedecked with flickering candles, lush, lazy, fresh fragrant flowers, and lovingly arranged centerpieces decorated with artifacts and symbols of the faiths of the world. The scene was viewed through the shimmer of tears by many who were there.
It was the 13th Annual MultiFaith Banquet, with the theme of “Commitment to Compassion.” The banquet capped off a weekend celebrating Toledo’s official designation as a Compassionate Community. Our citizens have formally committed to embracing and promoting compassion, having signed the Charter for Compassion that is based on the ideas of Karen Armstrong, scholar and author of over 20 books. She has been the inspiration for our community to join a global movement of 35 other cities and 227 campaigns that commit to setting long-range goals to applying compassion as a strategy towards resolving critical issues in the community, and setting compassion as a guiding principle for individuals and organizations.
April 25 was the official Designation Day at One Government Center. Gathered for the signing ceremony were Mayor D. Michael Collins, Toledo City Council, and the Lucas County Commissioners, who along with the TMACOG ( Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments) gave their endorsements. Woody and Judy Trautman, chair and co-chair, respectively, of the Compassionate Community Campaign were in attendance and Judy presented a lovely document to the citizens of Toledo that was accepted by Paula Hicks-Hudson, City Council president. It is a beautiful framed copy, done in calligraphy and delicately illuminated by Phyllis Palmer with original Artwork and calligraphy by Carole Maurer.
Hicks-Hudson spoke about how happy she was to accept the gift and pledged to use compassion as a lens in making policy decisions.
Tina Skeldon Wozniak , Lucas County commissioner, mentioned how diverse the community is and and how everyone lives in harmony.
From there it was off to the next event in this grand weekend, the Compassionate Networking Convention at the Seagate Convention Center.
The 2014 Heroes of Compassion were honored at the MultiFaith Banquet. Photo courtesy of Denny Moorman.
Gathered there were tables and displays of more than 90 different faiths and organizations representing sectors such as housing, safe homes and streets, intercultural health, education, faith, and food banks. This provided an opportunity for the organizations to educate one another and the public about what they do and explore ways to assist and collaborate.There were health screenings and break-out sessions addressing hunger and health, media, funding & grant writing, education, addiction & mental health, human trafficking and a youth meet & greet.
A complete list of sponsors for the event can be found at compassionatetoledo.org
So, finally, on Sunday, we met again – more unified, more energized than ever before, at Lourdes for a tender and triumphant celebration that represented 10 years of passionate, dedicated work by scores of people and most especially Woody and Judy Trautman.
Tom Williams came from Louisville, where he is co- host of the Partnership for A Compassionate Louisville. The largest Compassionate City in the United States, Louisville serves as a model for all Compassionate Cities. Williams has received the Jack Olive International Heart of Compassion award from the Charter for Compassion International and is a founding member of the Global Compassion Council that now oversees the Charter for Compassion Programs.
He said that we needed to make compassion part of our DNA, and that science was finding that people who engaged in compassionate work were healthier and happier.
Williams came with gifts — the Louisville Challenge, a flag given to him by the Compassionate Charter community of Seattle. The flag represents a gift from one Compassionate City to another, seeking to be designated or having been recently designated.
He also had a Leader of Compassion award for Judy, and he presented a real treasure to Woody: a Tibetan Prayer shawl called a khata that he had received from the Dalai Lama, with instructions to pass it on.
Woody and Judy Trautman display gifts presented to them at the MultiFaith Banquet celebration of Toledo as a Compassionate Community. Photo courtesy of Susan Hashmi.
This years’ Heroes of compassion were presented with their awards. They are: State Rep. Teresa Fedor; Janice Grimes of Quilts of Compassion; Alice Mosiniak, Seagate Foodbank; Dr. Anne Ruch of SewHope / Kids Against Hunger, and Yusuf Ali and Melinda Sutton of Masjid Al-Islam.
Father Jim Bacik, the keynote speaker, talked about what feelings and attitudes reflect compassion, methods and strategies, collaboration, networking and solidarity.
He said that compassion is not benevolence, but “to suffer with – to be close to participate in the pain of the world.”
Music was provided by The Gathering, a group from Toledo’s First Unitarian Universalist Church. This was followed by a delightful meal prepared by Chris Loe of Cafe Lourdes.
We left with a clear vision of where we are going next, energized by our success, and galvanized toward further action – a passion for compassion. Because without action, it’s all just talk.