A Joint Statement of the international Charter for Compassion Texas Compassionate Cities:
Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Richardson, and San Antonio
in the Aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas Tragedy May 24, 2022
25 May 2022
The core value of compassion as a societal norm and the practice of compassionate action is needed more than ever. It is with deep sadness that we have witnessed yet another school incident of gun violence, this time of historic proportion in the small community of Uvalde in southwest Texas. The loss of twenty-two lives, most very young, is irreparable. Our hearts go out to the families of all those affected, especially to those who have experienced the loss of loved ones. And our hearts go out to the family and friends of the young perpetrator who was killed during this incident. We can only imagine the reasons that led him to carry out this horrible act. All human life is sacred.
We feel deep sadness, yet also significant anger. Why does this pattern continue to repeat itself? It has become not surprising but still very shocking each time it happens. Where will it happen next?
Why have we not adequately addressed the issues that studies have shown lead to these tragedies – lack of sensible gun control, mental health issues, isolation, family cultural breakdown? No other advanced nation has the number of guns the U.S. has, and no other state in the U.S. has as lax gun control measures as Texas. Why do we lack the will to face these issues head-on? We must do better. To this end, Compassionate Cities of Texas collectively commit to working tirelessly with city and state leaders and with other organizations and groups to realize sensible gun control, to better support the mental health needs of our youth, to better address the realities of isolation, and to support stronger family infrastructures.
We, the undersigned, also recognize the key importance of values education and training in our school systems. Neuropsychological studies confirm we are born with the seeds of compassion. But for any seed to grow and flourish, it must be cultivated from birth. We, therefore, commit to supporting social/emotional learning in our schools with emphasis on the value of compassion and its embodiment beginning in infancy and continuing throughout life from "cradle to grave."
Lesa Walker, MD, MPH, Compassionate Austin
Pastor Cliff Krcha, Compassionate Corpus Cristi
Charles Barker, MD, MPH, ThM, Compassionate Dallas/Fort Worth
Pam Lewis, Ph.D., Compassionate Houston
Todd Porter, Compassionate Richardson
Reverend Ann Helmke, Compassionate San Antonio
Let’s Begin in the Spot Where We Wish to End
by Reverend Ann Helmke, Compassionate San Antonio
Part of systemic compassion is to map out a system and find one spot to apply the antidote as opposed to creating a full-fledged strategic plan to solve the entire problem. Compassion then moves by the ripple effect. And it infuses hope where no hope is felt or seen, or maybe no longer exists. I've had too many young people, too many adults, too many children tell me since Tuesday -- "I'm done. I have no hope."
Today I suggest we Go-Gandhi and Go-Nike. We begin where we wish to end, be the change we wish to see, and just do it!
My guess is that everyone reading this and sharing this would like to never ever again hear about or read about, or lastly see another school shooting in their lifetime or their children’s lifetimes or their grandchildren’s lifetimes. Am I right?! Such insanity. Such an atrocity. Such needlessness. Such a loss. Such pain to endure let alone begin to ever heal.
So, let’s begin there in that spot where we wish to end and that change is the one, we wish to see – not one more shooting in a school by a child and inflicted on other children and those who teach and care for their futures. Not one more. That is our endpoint. How do we get there? Beginning today? How can we change things today? How do we begin?
We begin by clearing our minds and choosing sanity and intentionality, responsibility, and plain old common sense. We begin by doing something so easy that we can each do it today. If you know someone who owns weapons, simply ask them with respect and compassionate concern for our children, to check where all of those are and to make sure those are secured so that no one can easily or accidentally find, take, and G-d forbid, use them. Likewise, if you own weapons, please take some time today on behalf of all of us and all our future generations, and in respectful memory of the lives lost in Uvalde this week, survey and secure those, please. For G-d’s sake.
This plan of action is not political. It's not anti-NRA or whatever. It's sane. It's smart. It stands on the side of life. On the side of today, and tomorrow.
If memory serves me well, around the time of the Million Mom March in 2000 there was a conversation held by the peaceCENTER here in San Antonio. It was an intentional and invitational conversation held between Family Members of Murdered Victims and local members of the NRA. It was not only civil. It was a sane conversation. And there was one thing they all agreed on -- children should not and never die as the children and their teachers died in Uvalde this past week. By a gun. In the hands of another child. Never.
We can all agree that timing is critical and of the essence to our mutual futures, as in today-not-tomorrow. Or better said today-and-all-tomorrows. Those families and folks in Uvalde need to know and feel our compassionate love and sincere prayers and clear actions on their behalf. We all need that too! Here is San Antonio.
This is also Memorial Day weekend and there will be lots of celebrating happening which also heightens possibilities. Let’s enjoy the weekend but let’s also agree to send our children back to school on Tuesday knowing that those possibilities are responsibly surveyed and safely secured from any harm to any child. Especially the one who might hold it. And their parents. G-d help us.
Let’s make this Memorial Day weekend in San Antonio and across Texas one for the memorable history books! Let’s double down on being human by being the best we can be by being the change we wish to see around the entire world.
Let it all start here.
And hey, let’s do it as only San Antonio does it – let’s light up some hope in our homes, our streets, our neighborhoods. If you still have up your Christmas lights (and I know you do), light’em up! Turn on those porch lights. Get a new bulb that speaks to your heart’s desire for our children and our city. Buy a box of them and share them with neighbors and friends as gifts to our shared future. I just bought a new one that burns golden with a heart-shaped filament inside. I want everyone to see it and to think they are loved when they are, because they are, simply because they were born. Just like me.
And I’m going to keep that light burning all this weekend and into all the weeks ahead. For my children. For my neighborhood and community. For my San Antonio that I love. For Uvalde. For our future.
The Rev. Ann Helmke is an ordained Lutheran minister and serves as the Faith Liaison for the City of San Antonio. She recently received an Honorary Doctorate in Pastoral Theology from Oblate School of Theology.
We Must Stop Otherizing People Who Are Different From Ourselves
by Barbara Kaufmann, Compassionate Appleton, Wisconsin
If you hang around the Charter at all, you will come to understand that we take compassion seriously. We don’t see it as an emotion; we don’t see it as weakness; we don’t consider it an afterthought. It’s fundamental to Life and Being.
Compassion is fierce. And it’s inborn—we are all programmed in our DNA for compassion. It’s not second nature to us; it’s our first nature. It runs deep in our bones and colors everything we do. We only need to acknowledge it and then deliberately employ it. And the more we volitionally employ it, the more the world becomes compassionate.
We, at the Charter, have gotten good at compassion, but only because we touch it, breathe it, have practiced it over and over, and make it part of our daily lives, so that it’s become endemic within the twelve years we have been in existence.
The Charter for Compassion is an antidote—a global antidote to the misery, violence, and anger in the world. We are present worldwide: in 54 countries with close to 3000 partners and millions of constituents on our mailing list and social media. Someday we will reach critical mass and we all will consider compassion our first response even before we consider acting on another impulse. Compassion will be our impulse.
We were reflecting on the events of the last couple of weeks; added to the unspeakable tenor of war and more mass shootings, we have now lost, once again, innocent schoolchildren. It’s horrific and we condemn any killing of innocents but especially of children who have not lived long enough to develop the kind of reasoning that would allow for the murder of another of our kind.
Amid this picture of horror, we want to affirm that the Charter believes we are better than this. All of us. Imagine the world with compassion as the default. Imagine that every interaction in the world begins from the place and space of compassion.
How do we create this? By keeping compassion primary in emotions and reactions. We descend from our imaginary throne as the center of Creation and attention, and we open a space for the “other.” We simply stop “otherizing” people who appear different from us. We stop making them— “them.” We stop the automatic separatism and opposition of those we don’t see, or embrace as, part of our tribe. It is incorrect; we are all a human tribe.
The best way to handle compassion is to embody it. It is, fundamentally, who you are. You and I are singular expressions arising from a multifaceted human family. We all have one head, two arms, two legs, and a brain that is more capable than the largest computer on the planet. We are more alike than different. The world does not revolve around me but around us. We together are a human family. We are custodians of this Earth and this Life but a short time. What we do today reverberates around the planet whether we can see it or not. We are like droplets of a river that runs through life. We—together—create the world. We could be a mighty river of compassion—the singular and collective. What will you express today?
Barbara Kaufmann is the Founder of “Words and Violence” Program about bullying in all its forms on this planet, and writer for Voices Education Project, Charter for Compassion, a Huffington Post contributor, poet, artist, scriptwriter, and filmmaker—Barbara “writes to simply change the world.” Her ministry and life’s work is dedicated to “establishing a more humane narrative on this planet.”