Stories for Faith and Interfaith – Page 2

These are news posts that pertain to bringing The Games into spiritual communities.

Story of Compassion: Opening her arms to the world

Story and photos by Tara Clark

After living in a small, remote village called Lesotho, in southern Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1990s, I continued to travel off the beaten path to far corners of the world. My paths led to Haiti, the South Sudan, Laos, Mozambique and beyond.

Travel was my passion in life. But unlike many people, I did not travel to see the “wonders” of the world.” Instead, I traveled to meet and photograph the wonderful people of the world.

When I traveled to foreign lands, forced completely outside of my “comfort zone,” I find that unique, thought-provoking and inspiring conversations and interactions would happen. These human connections would fuel me to work hard and look forward to the next adventure abroad.

In 2011, I realized I did not need to travel the world to have the inspiring human connection that I was seeking. The people of the world are all here in Seattle.

Asha Warsame, 23, on left, from Somalia, is one of the global citizens featured on Tara’s web site. Her mother and sister are also shown here.

So I set out on a journey creating The World in My Backyard. My goal is to meet and photograph an individual or couple born in every country in the world, currently residing in Seattle. The parameters I have set for myself are that the person I interview must only be one degree of separation from me; either I meet them on my own or an acquaintance (new or old) connects me with the individual. Since beginning the project in early 2012, I have been on the most incredible journey of my life and it has not required any travel!

 

 

One of the first questions I am asked is, “How are you going to find someone from each country?” I share that I think it will be the easiest part of the challenge, because I connect with immigrants EVERYWHERE. We are fortunate in Seattle to live in such an ethnically diverse city. I find myself connecting at my sons’ school, in parks, coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants, walking the dog, at parties, at the theater… the locations are endless. Friends and neighbors have also been connectors. To date, I have interviewed immigrants from 27 different countries (and identified 40 more to be interviewed). They cross all demographics and range in age from 22 to 76. They openly share with me their family history and life story. I do not exaggerate when I say my connection with each and every person has been incredible.

Lakpa Sherpa, 47, and Furba Sherpa, 49, are immigrants from Nepal.

Through the project, my family is learning about global geography, history and current events, different religions and philosophies, foreign foods, a vast number of professions, unimaginable struggles and achievements. Through the new connections I am making with people in the Seattle community, our world is opening to new activities and experiences. My children’s excitement to be involved in the project and meeting new people is astonishing and exciting. They are becoming global citizens without leaving the city.

Having the project to talk about has led to fascinating conversation with complete strangers and long time friends. Through sharing personal stories, new bonds are quickly formed. New friendships are formed with the immigrants I interview.

Ibrahima Bakhram, 31, comes to Seattle from Senegal.

 

Too often, in our society, we look forward to the next goal and rarely reflect on our journey. Witnessing each person treasure the moments of sharing their life story with a stranger is incredibly special. It is my belief that through real, honest human connection we can create more compassionate and united communities.

I have started sharing the lives I am learning about on my website. Consider starting your own “in my backyard” community and sharing your experiences of connectivity with me. I promise it will take you on an unforgettable adventure of learning about yourself and the world around you.

Spontaneous Ways to Make a Difference

9/11 11 Years Later

Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11, a day that changed so much for so many people. I know that it changed everything for me. What about for you?

I’ll never forget that Friday evening after 9/11 Shabbat service where Rabbi Ted Falcon invited Imam Jamal Rahman to speak, to make sure that people saw a different face of Islam. It was 9/11 that brought Ted, Jamal and Pastor Don McKenzie together to form the Interfaith Amigos.

My work in Seattle on helping to create a culture of compassion, understanding, kindness and justice goes back to those days. The work over the seven years from 2001 to 2008 built the relationships and commitment that helped us to be of service when his Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Seattle. Along with the Interfaith Amigos and the help of many volunteers who later formed the Compassionate Action Network International and Compassionate Seattle, we organized the Interfaith prayer breakfast for the Seeds of Compassion.

In commemoration of 9/11, KUOW had the Interfaith Amigos on the air this morning. The Amigos talked about their experiences of the last eleven years and what they’ve learned about how to create spiritually meaningful lives that aren’t based on any one particular religious tradition, but instead honor all paths.

They answered questions about their journey getting to know each other and how they’ve been able to tell others about the beauty and benefit of getting to know people outside of one’s familiar world. They affirmed the need we all have to create meaningful community, whether we consider ourselves religious or not, and noted the one thing that they believe to be at the core of each true spiritual path. To hear what they believe this to be, you can listen to their podcast by following the link here.

On Friday, September 21, the International Day of Peace, there will be a peace vigil and concert at the Interfaith Community Church (ICC), the spiritual home of Jamal Rahman. This event is part of the opening ceremonies of the Compassion Games. We invite you to get involved in the Compassion Games and join with us for 30 days of compassionate action to co-create a Seattle that’s a kinder, more just and better place to live.

Leave a comment below and tell us if you’ll be attending the opening ceremony at ICC. Also, if you enjoyed this article and the podcast, please help us spread the word and share this post with your friends and family!

“I Wasn’t Arrested That Day, I Was Really Rescued!”

Here is a story of compassion that is so needed at this time as we support our police force to think differently about how they relate to their fellow citizens.  Imagine if it was your job to arrest people. How would you relate to the people you’re arresting? What does it mean to treat those who are being arrested with compassion?

A few weeks ago I was witness to an uncanny event that helped shed light on these questions. While attending a meeting focused on the Safe Communities program, I met Pastor Ray Rogers from Rose Prayer Christian Ministries and Harry Bailey, a senior policy adviser to the Mayor of Seattle.

At some point in the meeting, Pastor Rogers realized that Harry, who was sitting across from him, was the man he’d wanted to see for over 20 years. It turns out that, as a youth, Ray Rogers sold narcotics to Harry Bailey, then working as an undercover cop. Harry, fulfilling his duty as an officer, arrested Ray.

But instead of an arrest that might have left Ray as a young man shamed or angry, something profoundly different happened between the two men that day. As Ray explains it, Harry Bailey treated Ray with dignity and said six words that left such a lasting impression on him, that it helped turn his whole life around. Watch the video to hear the whole story and find out what those six words were. Find out why Ray says today with such conviction that “there’s a reason why everything happens in our life.”

Pastor Ray Rogers tells his story publicly at a rally organized by Standing in the Gap Seattle last Saturday with Harry Bailey in attendance.  Watch the short video of Pastor Ray sharing his story and challenging us to get off the “couch of do nothing” and to come out and make a difference.  When I called Harry to get his permission to share this video he told me that he was hopeful that other police officers would see the video and see the difference that they can make in a young person’s life.

Leave your comments below and tell us what you think about Ray’s story. What can you do to “get off the couch” as Ray suggests? Tell us what compassionate action you’re committed to do today to make a difference in someone’s life.

Do you have a story of compassion to share? We want others to know about the goodness and kindness that exists here in our community. Click here to learn how you can submit your story to the Compassion Games.

Our Stand for Compassion at Seattle Center

As part of Compassionate Seattle’s plan to create “collective impact” we put together a physical “stand for compassion” that was on display at Seattle Center. On seven occasions we set up our stand and engaged with fellow citizens about our community and our plans to create a culture of compassion in our region.  We learned how people think and feel about compassion and how they see or don’t see themselves connected to other people and the greater community.

I came to believe that we are not just in an economic recession but we’re in a social recession as well. There’s no question that people want to see more compassionate action, as there is a mood of resignation and hopelessness associated with the current conditions.

However, being at Seattle Center offered us a bright spot as we told the story of the John T Williams Totem Pole Memorial and the difference that compassionate action made in turning a tragedy into an opportunity for healing. Two weeks after the shooting members of the John T William’s family and tribe met with city officials in a “restorative circle” that led to a peaceful creative solution, inspiring all of us to have similar courage.  At the Stand for Compassion at Seattle Center we met Tony Joe who met Rick and John T. Williams when she first arrived in Seattle in 1975.  Listen to Tony Joe describe her relationship with the Williams Brothers.

We also met people like Michael who a few times a week pulls over to help motorists in need. Hear his description of what he does and how he feels he’s representing Seattle when he does it!

The experiences we had being at Seattle Center taught us about our need to reconnect with each other and overcome the social isolation and disconnection.  This led to imagining the Compassion Games as a way to get us out of our norms and connected with each other.  Thank you to all the people who came down and helped us build a stand for compassion: Anne Stadler, Erik Lawyer, Susan Partnow, John Hale, Silvana Hale, Elle McSharry, Jeff VanderClute Libby Burk, Michael Truog, and John and Heidi Malcolmson.  Thank you to Seattle Center and the Next Fifty for supporting us in doing this. On to the games!

Compassionate Louisville: The Community Challenge

The inspiration for the Compassion Games comes from our friends in Louisville, Kentucky.  Mayor Greg Fischer and his team are implementing their compassionate cities program in a remarkable fashion.   After Seattle affirmed the Charter for Compassion and invited other cities around the world to join with us in creating 10 Year Campaigns for Compassionate Cities, Louisville was one of the first and by far the most developed cities campaign we encountered. The Compassionate Action Network International awarded them the International Compassionate City award in 2012.

Mayor Greg Fischer would welcome a rivalry. “I’ve said from day one that we’re going to pursue being recognized as the most compassionate city in the world – and if that prods other cities to try to outdo us, then ‘Game On.’ In a competition centered on compassion, everyone wins!”

Compassionate Louisville recently amassed over 90,000 hours of community service during their one-week long Give a Day program.  We’re following their lead and measuring the number of hours of community service and are encouraging other cities to agree upon this simple measure of hours of community service.  From their community challenge:

“We challenge you to volunteer more, to give more blood, to share more resources and to top our collective mark with the goal of leaving our world a better place. If a city tops us, next year we will step up our devotion because we know that in our garden of compassion, there is still rocky soil and arid places that need tending; and there always will be. We are not so naive as to think this is not a community with more than its fair share of pain and suffering. We know it is. We, however,believe compassion is good soil for the garden of community.”

“All I have tried to do,” Fischer said, “is pull the good hearts and good hands of Louisville together. From our cathedrals to our temples and mosques, from the Muhammad Ali Center to our Christian seminaries, we are a community that is built on faith, love and tolerance. This is who we’ve always been. All I’m doing is rallying the troops.”

Of course, Louisville has also been extremely compassionate in their support of us and other cities taking on this challenge. It has made all their materials available and if you’re interested you can access them here.  You can watch a video of their Livable City Award and their issuing the Community Challenge.  And yes Tom we intend to kick your butts!