Milford has proclaimed itself a community of compassion, in part to honor the life of Maren Sanchez, the Jonathan Law High School student stabbed to death at her school April 25.
Milford’s Board of Aldermen voted Monday night to direct Mayor Ben Blake to sign a Charter of Compassion, which makes it one of more than 250 communities in the country that have signed on to the cause, according to Christopher Kukk, a professor at Western Connecticut State University and director of the Center for Compassion, Creativity and Innovation.
“It’s spreading,” Kukk said.
Jade Ramos, 26, brought the Charter of Compassion to Milford after hearing one of its founders speak about it. Donna Cimarelli, Maren Sanchez’ mother, has been working with her and several others to gather signatures for the charter.
“She said to me that if Maren was still alive, she would be the one standing next to me doing this,” Ramos said.
The Charter for Compassion and the idea for cities of compassion started fairly recently, after the tragic school shootings in Newtown.
Following the tragedy in Newtown, Dr. Kukk and Scarlett Lewis, mother of 6-year old Jesse Lewis, one of the Newtown victims, began work to weave compassion into schools, according to the website CompassionateSeattle.
The website says they met with President Obama and soon after with his sister, who was developing compassion curriculum for schools on the opposite side of the country.
“The movement to create a nation of compassionate schools had begun,” the site states.
Ramos said she heard Scarlett Lewis speak at an event at the Milford Fine Arts Council, and the speech moved her.
Then she read Lewis’ book, “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope & Forgiveness,” and the book changed her life.
Jade Ramos and Dr. Christopher Kukk stop for a photo after the aldermen voted to have the mayor sign a Charter of Compassion Monday night.
She worked with Lewis to start collecting signatures of Milford people who wanted to become a community of compassion, and Lewis got in touch with Maren’s mother and invited her to join the effort.
Since then the group has circulated a number of petitions, and gathered more than 1,000 signatures.
The charter calls on people in Milford “to restore compassion to the center of our lives — to return to the ancient principle that any teachings or doctrines which breed violence, hatred or disdain are misguided and illegitimate — to ensure that our youth are given positive appreciation of diversity — to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings, even those regarded as enemies.”
Kukk said the charter puts compassion in the forefront.
On the science side, he said that “when a person thinks from a compassionate mindset, he or she releases the peptide hormone oxytocin, which then activates the neurotransmitters of dopamine and serotonin, contributing to happiness and optimism — two characteristics that contribute to success and resiliency.”
Mayor Ben Blake spoke about the charter at Monday’s Board of Aldermen’s meeting, crediting Ramos for starting the initiative here.
He talked about the tragedies that have visited Milford, from the death of Maren Sanchez to the storms that have robbed people of their homes.
“This initiative of compassion calls upon the golden rule that we learn fm kindergarten on, and it is really, in my mind, a great thing.”
Ramos told the aldermen that after the community came together to heal following tragedies, it was clear that Milford residents demonstrate compassion. She said more attention should be given to the good deeds, rather than the bad.
She and Kukk said that compassion can be demonstrated in many ways, from random acts of kindness, to feeding the hungry: Big efforts and small ones.
People can sign the petition to join the effort by going to the group’s Facebook page, Milford, CT – A City of Compassion and following the link to the charter.