C is for Compassion

It is not as if I have not written about compassion before. I have done so a couple of times in Compassion and Courage’s Friend: Compassion. However, I felt inspired to reflect on this spiritual value again for two reasons: the holiday season and the recent tragedies globally involving the deaths of children and adults. The recent tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and at the Chenpeng Village Primary School in the Henan province of China[1] have begun conversations about weapon control and addressing mental health issues domestically and globally. These are the topics most frequently addressed by the media and on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, surrounding these and similar tragic events in our world.
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Compassion

What is compassion? When I was in seminary, one of my professors introduced me to a book called The Quality Of Characteristics. The author Ruth Gendler, describes compassion in the following manner. Compassion wears Saturn’s rings on the fingers of her left hand. She is intimate with the life force. She understands the meaning of sacrifice. She is not afraid to die. There is nothing you cannot tell her. Compassion speaks with a slight accent. She was a vulnerable child, miserable in school, cold, shy, alert to the pain in the eyes of her sturdier classmates. The other kids teased her about being too sentimental, and for a long time she believed them. In ninth grade she was befriended by Courage. Courage lent Compassion bright sweaters, explained the slang, showed her how to play volleyball, taught her you can love people and not care what they think about you. In many ways Compassion is still the stranger, neither wonderful nor terrible, herself, utterly, always.[1]
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The ties that bind

Last night, students, faculty, staff, and members of the administration of SUNY Brockport gathered in in the Seymour Union Ballroom for a time of remembrance of an 18 year old, Alexandra Kogut, who was murdered by her boyfriend this past Saturday. The room quickly filled with students and the sea of students continued to flow in until there was not a seat, a spot to stand, or floor space on which to sit. What was also present last night were spiritual values, which bring communities together and are not always present in situations of domestic violence. All too often, I hear stories of how people who were in abusive situations received no support from their churches or faith communities. Recently, I heard of a woman who had been assaulted and stabbed by her abusive husband. As she recovered from her injuries, she turned to her church, expecting pastoral care and support. She was not then employed because her husband would not allow her to work.
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Temporary and Permanent Residency

A friend of ours is interviewing for a job in another state. As she has talked about the idea of moving, she has thought about taking up a temporary residence somewhere until she can decide where and in what neighborhood she wants to live in. As I have listened to the stories of those whose homes were lost during Hurricane Katrina, there was a clear sense that where I am at right now is a temporary situation, but soon I will be moving back to or into permanent housing again. When it comes to where we live, most of us have a clear sense of when the place is our temporary and or permanent residence. So why is that some of us have trouble doing that with our feelings.
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What are you aligned with?

Michael Beckwith once wrote, “The daily headlines describe a global culture that has been cur off from the soul.” One need not look farther then the headlines on any form of news media for stories about violence, whether it is overt, subtle, verbal, physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual. We manifest violence through our words, actions, and thoughts. Violence is associated with power, either the misuse of the power one has or an attempt to feel powerful in a world where they have felt disempowered. Violence can be individual or structural. We hear about individual violence in stories of wars, abuse, neglect, murders, rapes, bombings, terrorism, etc.
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It is not all about me.

So a many of you know Zoë and I legally were married this past Saturday after having been together for 10 years. Thank you to the State of New York for the great anniversary present. I love being with my wife. I also love being mother to my son Nicholas and all the others who have adopted me as a parent figure in their lives. I know all these relationships are part of who I was created to be and what I was created to do in this world. However, there are moments when I am not in love with any of these roles and there are even moments when I am not too pleased with life either.
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An Attitude of Gratitude

We all go through times in our journey which if given the choice, we might choose to avoid. It is at times like this when I tend to hear my Bubby’s voice reminding me that when you can see the good in a bad situation, then you know you are going to be ok. I have done this with Zoë’s cancer diagnosis, during the times my son has struggled (like last night), during my struggle with Liftline, etc. As I have made a list of the blessings in each situation, the way I see them, what I choose to believe about them shifts from an Eeyore attitude to an attitude of gratitude. The more I focus on what I have to be grateful for, the more I realize how much I have to be grateful for. It is as if gratefulness begets gratefulness begets gratefulness.
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While you are in the meantime.

Yesterday I received an email that asked me what are you supposed to do while you are in the meantime. So here are a few suggestions of what you can do while you are in the meantime. While you are in the meantime, help somebody. A poet once wrote, “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.” Sometimes when we are feeling empty, we benefit immeasurably by serving people in need. As their strength is renewed, our cups overflow. Stop waiting for an invitation to get involved. Go help somebody. As John F Kennedy once said, don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
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Wait!

It is no secret, to those of you who read my reflections on a regular basis, that I am a Chopped fan. I am not sure I have missed an episode since it first aired. I have learned a lot about cooking from watching the show in terms of techniques and flavor profiles and combinations. However, one of the recent episodes moved me to tears and touched me spiritually in a way that I was not expecting. It all happened with a single word. WAIT! This episode, like a few of the others, was a redemption battle between four chefs who had come in second in their initial competitions. I remember each of them well. However, from the beginning, I had my two favorites Yohanna and Lance. I had remembered them from their initial appearances because of their humility, their grace, and their creativity.
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Horton and the Who

As adults, sometimes what inspires us are things that are deep and reflective. Other times, it is something that brings us back to our childhood, something simple like a kid’s book. Recently, at our Pizza & Spirituality Chat Night, I read a Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears A Who, to those who gathered to eat my first attempt at homemade pizza. If you have not read this book, do so or some of what is in my heart this morning may not make complete sense. There are a couple of things I love about this story. One is that Horton has this amazing capacity to love all of humanity. Horton believes “a person’s a person, no matter how small.” Another thing I have come to love about Horton is that he is an elephant of great faith. Horton is committed to protecting the people of who-ville, even though he cannot see them. However, protecting them is not as easy as it seems.
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