WHAT MAKES A COMPASSIONATE CITY?
by Vanessa F. Hurst
Compassion is heart-centered. It is a strong desire to alleviate suffering whenever, wherever, and however it presents. A compassionate city is an aware city. It is an umbrella under which small and large, organized and personal, communal and personal acts of compassion occur. When the drops of suffering rain down upon that umbrella, citizens recognize the tattoo beat of suffering and act to alleviate that suffering.
Compassion acts in an aware city have no limitations; there are no prescribed methods for alleviating suffering. It fosters an environment of invitation — each citizen, individually and collectively, is asked to be a compassion warrior in however they are called to alleviate suffering. With no expectations, compassion becomes the fluid, dynamic lived experience of organizations and individuals who reside within the city. Each organization and each individual create unique expressions of the collective intent of a city to be compassion.
Measuring this unique expression of intent is a tricky endeavor. How do we measure subjective acts based upon many interpretations of the simple definition of compassion — to alleviate suffering? In an effort to measure the immeasurable, do we risk negatively impacting the compassionate response? With measurement, the risk exists of setting a bar that some might be afraid they are unable to meet. Instead of responding with compassion, they do nothing.
In my programs, I tell participants that I left my compassion yardstick at home. Instead of measuring compassion and inadvertently placing limitations on their actions, I encourage them to create their own compassion continuum — to decide how they as individuals, and collectively within community, grow increasingly more compassionate in their actions. If measuring happens at all, it is measured in a person’s or organization’s ability to respond quickly and spontaneously in dynamic and evolving ways.
While it is difficult to measure compassionate acts, perhaps there could be an index that measures compassionate policies within cities. The index could include how communities respond to specific incidences of suffering such suffering in victims of violent crimes and those community members who experience homelessness. Other measurables would be how cities compassionately respond to issues like affordable housing, food deserts, and just wages. With these measurables, the city’s, and its community members, identification of and response to suffering evolves.
As my understanding of compassion has evolved, so has my compassionate action. I have been a member of the Compassionate Louisville Coordinator Circle and provided Public Relations/Communications support. I also consulted with organizations interested in joining the Partnership for Compassionate Louisville. I serve as co-project manager for Compassion At Work.
The mission of my organization, Intent & Action, is to assist individuals and organizations in crafting a lived experience of compassion through intent and action. I provide compassion-centric and contemplative/mindful awareness programs that encourage the integration of compassion into lived experience. I wrote two books that share ways of integrating compassionate into lived experience — Engaging Compassion Through Intent and Action and A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships.
Two of my programs nurture the compassionate awareness in individuals and encourage groups to create calls to compassionate action. The Compassion Conversation© provides resources to groups and individuals to assist in the discovery of their lived experience and create strategies to strengthen their compassion response. Compassion’s Circle© is a monthly opportunity for individuals to fill their well of self compassion and share that compassion with others in community. Participants receive a compassion tool each month.
Personally, I bridge my intent to be compassionate with my actions by being mindful. I actively engage share compassion spontaneously with the intimate stranger and with those that I know. The words of Matthieu Ricard are never far from my mind. When I find myself judging the behavior of another, I hear him say, “Compassion is not a reward for good behavior.” And, with that reminder my hope is to live as Gandhi encourages us — that my life is my message. And, that message? Compassion.
~Vanessa F. Hurst, ms, is a Mindful Coach, Compassion Consultant, Professional Speaker, and Author who weaves her inner wisdom into all she touches. Her books are A Constellation of Connections: Contemplative Relationships and Engaging Compassion Through Intent & Action.
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