Charter for Compassion

Well, with my semester grading squared away I’ve been looking forward to some light-hearted posting on training and holiday projects… but first a serious post in response to events yesterday in Newtown, CT. I spent a great deal of time yesterday thinking about what was happening, and why, and how to make things better. Certainly, there will be a lot of political discussion about this in the coming weeks–but I also tend to think about these events in terms of Buddhist ethics. Compassion and empathy are core values in Buddhism, as they are in many other religious traditions, but as a society I think we do not place these values at the center of our lives as we should. We don’t get to know our neighbors. We don’t always feel compelled to reach out to someone in need of help who isn’t getting it. We may teach our kids a sense of community, but we often teach it as something we do on a day dedicated to volunteerism or at the holidays, rather than as an every day ongoing commitment.

This morning I discovered the Charter for Compassion online, and I would encourage everyone to check it out. This is a nondenominational, apolitical effort to get folks to affirm compassion as a value in their lives. Once you read and sign the pledge, you can share it with others and look for ways to help out in your community. Even if all you do is read and sign the pledge, you are becoming part of a normative movement in favor of compassion. The more people who sign and share, the more people will be inspired to at least consider the idea of a more compassionate world: one in which we reflect on our actions, spot people in need, and help wherever necessary.

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