Compassion Transcends Generations
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It takes one simple act of compassion to make a monumental change in someone’s life.
That was the key message for attendees of Tuesday night’s Compassion in Action: Intergenerational Forum with Karen Armstrong, author of Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. While her speech encompassed a variety of applicable situations for compassionate acts, it was while speaking of breaking through boundaries that Armstrong praised the importance of compassion in schools.
“Slowly the divisions will get whittled away and we can look at each other, we can learn from each other with a better understanding,” she said.
Armstrong’s message of compassion was one that resonated with several students of Vancouver schools who were in attendance.
Students Mary Truong, Essence Lai and Miksi Elmi participated in a conversational panel to share stories of their roots that had inspired compassion to bloom. Speaking of her work with Free the Children, Truong shared the story of her efforts to build a school for children in Kenya over the past four years, stressing the importance of education on a global level.
“Compassion to me is trying to create something else for someone, something that they may not have access to,” explained Truong, a student of Vancouver Technical School.
Fellow panelist Miski Elmi has worked on incorporating this ideology on a more local level. Speaking of her work at a youth centre, Elmi mentioned how she regularly had kids approaching her and asking for socks. Finding it to be a request that could be resolved with a simple act of kindness, Miski spearheaded efforts to collect ‘Socks in a Box’ – eventually filling a refrigerator box with an overwhelming supply of socks.
Speaking of how he had immigrated with his family to Canada from Fiji at a young age, Lai spoke of an upbringing that would have likely seen him serve as a field worker in Fiji.
In contrast to being granted the opportunity to pursue a different path in Canada, Lai offered a choice few words of wisdom on how to repay those acts of intergenerational compassion.
“Do your chores – not because you’re forced to, but because you want to. If someone has done something for you, there’s no better way to repay them then to give them the opportunity to just relax.”
Conversations at the surrounding tables encompassed a variety of topics, eventually veering again towards compassion in schools. Reflecting on the theory of boundaries that Armstrong had discussed earlier in the evening, several students had shared ideas for compassion in their own schools.
Two students from King George Secondary suggested a unique activity, one that would see students from all cultures intermingle, then separate, onto two sides of the school gym.
Each time that a statement was made or a question was asked that students considered to be was an identifiable aspect of themselves or their personalities, those students would take a step towards the center of the room and finally ‘meet each other halfway’.
As the night’s events concluded, the various cultures, generations, students and other social groups were able to reach a collective understanding. To be compassionate towards someone else, you first have to be passionate about changing your own perception.