In May, an opportunity presented itself to me and my husband. Did we want to join a Winnipeg contingent that was going to Louisville, Kentucky to take part in some inter-faith activities and, significantly, to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
We learned that some Winnipeggers were interested in following Louisville’s lead and wanted to learn how to make Winnipeg a ‘compassionate city’. Louisville signed onto the Charter for Compassion in 2010 and has since been recognized as one of the most compassionate cities in the world.
For my husband and I, having become involved in the Rotary World Peace Partners’ ‘Peace Days’ initiative, the Louisville excursion seemed like a good fit for us, and so we said, “Yes.” As it turns out, we ended up saying ‘yes’ to so much more.
For me, the most incredible thing was not sitting in a huge arena, listening to a Tibetan bell, calling us to be silent, to pay attention and then hearing, amazingly, the silence of 15,000 people who had come to soak up the wisdom of a wise man.
No, for me, the most incredible thing was discovering that right here in Winnipeg, we have some very passionate, like-minded individuals who are committed to making their workplaces, their schools, their health care facilities, their streets, and their communities as strong, as vibrant, as compassionate, and as giving as they can possibly be. In other words, I guess I had to travel outside of Winnipeg to meet my true neighbours and find the common goal that many of us share: how to make our city an even better place to live in and enjoy.
The connections we made on the trip were numerous, life affirming and, perhaps, life altering. How else can you explain why I am now trying to get a Muslim woman from the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. to come to Winnipeg to engage our young people to spend ‘Hours Against Hate’?
How else can you explain why I now have faith in some of our city’s real leaders; people like our Chief of Police, a man as interested in discovering the root causes of why people turn to crime and eradicating barriers to individual advancement as he is in keeping our citizens safe? He believes that the two go hand-in-hand and I think he is on to something.
Compassion doesn’t just mean buying someone their coffee at the Tim Horton’s – although that is lovely too. Acting with compassion means to live deliberately, to make choices about how (or even whether) we will tackle the tough stuff – how to address lack of caring and apathy; how to get outside our comfort zones and really listen to the suffering of others; how to offer assistance that is truly meaningful and sustainable.
How can we learn to share our humanity, at its essence, with those of us who by choice or default or fate have landed in this wonderful city? Winnipeg is filled with people who were born here, transferred here, or arrived here as refugees. It may not represent “home” to all, but it is a place where we live and where we can give the best of ourselves, in the service of others, for their sake and our own.
How have I changed? On the outside, not so much; although I did discover a taste for Bourbon while in Kentucky. On the inside, though, something has shifted.
Perhaps the best illustrations are the simplest. Recently, while running late to a party, I chose to go through a fast food fried chicken franchise. I was in a hurry. While waiting for my chicken, I started to get impatient. Why was it taking so long to cook one piece of chicken? Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered to stop.
But, when the owner completed the transaction, I stopped to notice how frazzled he looked. I saw the grease on the bottom of his shirt. I saw that he was suffering from the heat of being cooped up in a small establishment. I saw that he was trying to do the best he could do. I felt ashamed that, in my haste, I had started to judge.
We can choose, in every interaction, to act one way or another. What freedom we have, what responsibility, and what opportunity for change. If that doesn’t excite you, go grab a Tim’s ’cause maybe you need something to help open your eyes. I needed some help to open my own. Grateful for the inspiration. How will you find yours?
TOWARD A COMPASSIONATE WINNIPEG
Recently, a delegation from Winnipeg traveled to Louisville, Kentucky — in November 2012 and again in May 2013 — to learn how city leaders there began Compassionate Louisville. From schools to government, healthcare to policing, Louisville is proving that a lasting, positive impact is created when compassion informs the day-to-day life of a city.
Community News Commons encourages anyone to imagine what Winnipeg could become if we followed the lead of Louisville and made compassion an integral part of our community life.
Click on the links below to read other CNC articles on creating a compassionate Winnipeg:
Friendship blossoms for Sikhs, Mennonites in North Kildonan
Knowing more about others creates greater compassion
Compassion helps take back the streets
Golden Rule unites world religions
The hard work of living a compassionate life
Winnipeg encouraged to adopt Golden Rule
Delegation seeks compassion, will hear Dalai Lama speak
Winnipeg delegation looks to compassionate Louisville
Forum on compassion asks: Does Winnipeg care?
Is Winnipeg a compassionate city?
You can also type the word ‘compassion’ into the search bar at the top of this page to access more stories on this subject.