by Samantha Thomas
A compassionate city is a place where no one is excluded from the richness a community can offer. It is centered on providing spaces and places where people can connect – where mind, body and soul are nurtured through meaningful relationships, access to fresh food, proximity to nature, comfortable shelter, and purposeful work. A compassionate city’s door is always open, it discriminates against no one, and offers opportunity for everyone. It values and recognizes the potential for greatness in each of its members, and provides a stool for them to stand on when they need a lift reaching their greatest height.
The compassion of a city can be measured with economics — to an extent. When the economy of a city is healthy, the rates of crime and unemployment are low, income and wages are at a steady increase, and so on. One could say that these are indicators of a compassionate city, but economics is not a means to an end for measuring compassion because compassion surpasses numerical measurements and check lists. We are beginning to see this more and more as we find that economic measurements such as GDP are actually a poor gauge of well-being.
Scientific centers such as the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanfordare working on ways to measure empathy and compassion with science. While I’m very much pro-science, the scientific measurement of compassion, like economic measurement, begs the question: is compassion objective or subjective? Subjectively speaking, the compassion of a city can be measured by how much a community helps its members. From person-to-person, compassion can be measured by how much tolerance, understanding and acceptance one has for his or her fellow human being.
I contribute to creating a more compassionate community and world by working on my ability to be accepting and understanding of others. I’ve learned that once I can separate myself from the preconceived notions about the ways I think someone or something should be, I am able to accept that person or situation for what it is, and then move forward in a more loving and compassionate manner.
In my work, I direct a nonprofit organization called Dream Change, which hosts educational events that help raise consciousness and inspire more compassionate, sustainable ways of living. In 2015 I created Dream Change’s signature event, the Love Summit Business Conference, which aims to help companies, governments and the public understand how love can be used to drive social, environmental and economic sustainability. In my personal time I develop the social movement, Just Choose Love, and write a slow food and slow lifestyle blog, Samantha’s Bread & Butter, where I advocate that it is the simple, most basic things in life—the bread and butter—that matter most.
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