Stories for Compassionate Action Network International

Why Stories of Compassion Matter

By Gary Davis

Our society is fascinated by entertainers, sports heroes and lawbreakers. Glance at the “most read” list on most any online news site and you’ll find it overwhelmingly populated with articles that are variations on those themes. This isn’t a new trend. But what does it say about the stories we value, or to what we give our precious attention?

“People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell,” writes author and activist Elie Wiesel. We agree.  Since most children don’t grow up to be entertainers or sports heroes, we’re telegraphing to them a dangerous message: fame – and even infamy – is what matters. No wonder, then, as we continue to click on reports of celebrity or crime, money-strapped news organizations continue to feed us an endless supply of those stories. In short, it seems, we get what we “click,” upholding the axiom that whatever we give our attention gets bigger.

In this election year we’re also frequently reminded about our political and social divides. Yes, there are important issues and real divisions, but that’s an old story, and it’s demoralizing. Rather than spurring us to action, our continual political stalemates deflate us into non-action, isolation, and cynicism.

As current and former media professionals, with many years of experience in online, broadcast and print journalism, a group of us have come together in a belief that our community can do better. We see everyday ‘celebrities’ all around us, people whose stories, if told, can bridge divided communities, generate ideas to improve our collective lives, and inspire others to meaningful action.  Such stories can make a difference for a neighbor, a neighborhood, a city or a state. We believe most people are looking for inspiration and solutions from their everyday world, the one to which they belong, where they have a chance to make a positive impact. They are looking for stories that at their heart involve compassion.

So how do we get there? We’ve come up with an idea for a starting point, and it kicks off in mid-September.  “Stories of Compassion” is a storytelling competition for everyone in the greater Seattle region: student and professional journalists, bloggers, nonprofit groups who provide basic needs, businesses engaged in their communities, education projects, interfaith and faith-related outreach, poets, photographers and videographers.  The contest is about strengthening our greater community through the stories we tell about the lives we lead.

“Stories of Compassion” is part of an umbrella effort called “Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest,” and it begins September 21st.  The Games are sponsored by Compassionate Seattle, United Way of King County, the City of Seattle and King County. They are intended as both a fun and serious way to renew regional dialog about the value of compassionate action in our personal lives and in our communities. Opening day coincides with United Way of King County’s “Day of Giving,” one of the great compassion efforts our community participates in every year. Contest entries will be posted online at the Compassion Games site, a gallery for all to read, see and share. Winners will be announced later this fall. But it won’t end there.

“Stories of Compassion” and “Compassion Games” are meant to continue and expand a regional conversation about ways to foster compassionate action. Four years ago, the Dalai Lama and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Seattle to talk about the need for a more compassionate world, and tens of thousands of people pledged to identify, uphold and actively cultivate compassion in their communities. Inspired by their message against a backdrop of deeply partisan political and economic division, local organizations Compassionate Seattle and Compassionate Action Network International gelled around the message that compassion can bridge differences, create understanding and foster peace.

In 2010, Seattle became the first city in the world to affirm the Charter for Compassion, a document supporting compassion as the central tenet – the Golden Rule – among the world’s peoples, a necessary undertaking to encourage peace, nonviolence and understanding.

Other cities have followed Seattle’s lead, including Louisville, Kentucky. Recently, Louisville proudly counted more than 90,000 compassionate acts in one week. Now, they’ve thrown the challenge our way, and the Compassion Games is Seattle’s response. There are many ways to take part, and “Stories of Compassion” is but one.

To be clear, we are not arguing that stories about compassion aren’t being told. They are, every day, across varied mediums both local and national.  But they are drowned in the daily tidal wave of violence and name-calling that too often is packaged as the day’s news.  We’d like to see more stories that point us toward solutions to problems that plague our communities, and to make those stories easier for anyone to find. We intend to maintain a web presence that continues to collect these stories, an easy way to locate and share them well beyond the competition.

We envision a future when such stories dominate the “most read” list on news sites.

If we can give some attention to stories that matter, stories that bridge the divides between us and show us everyday solutions and pathways to alleviating suffering in our own community, then we can strengthen our communities. We encourage you to contribute your stories of compassion, for we cannot learn what we haven’t shared.

Note: Stories of Compassion editors’ group includes Gary Davis, Associate Executive Director at Seattle nonprofit Companis and longtime public radio reporter/editor and current news host for KPLU/NPR;  Anne Stadler, former KING/NBC public affairs veteran;  Rita Hibbard, executive director of Compassionate Action Network International and former Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor and co-founder of InvestigateWest, an investigative online journalism nonprofit;  Brook Stanford,   three-decade KOMO/ABC reporter; Chris Tugwell, YMCA Regional Director of Education, Employment and Technology programs, and editor of the community youth blog Puget SoundOff; and Marilyn Turkovich, director of Voices Education Project.



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!

September 21st – Good Star Alignment for the Compassion Games

Early on we realized that September 21st was an ideal day to start the Compassion Games not only because it’s the United Way’s Day of Caring, but also because it’s the autumnal fall equinox and the much beloved International Day of Peace.

Fortunately this year, the Peace, Compassion, Happiness, Empathy, Understanding, Love and Generosity movements are all working together. We’re all after the same ideal of a better world for our children and grandchildren no matter what you call it. Compassion Games knows we’re interdependent so we’re operating as such and seeking to lift all boats in the process.

Locally, our kick-off event for the games on Friday, September 21st is at the Urban Art Mural project in the south end at 10 AM. Get ready to be creative with friends and neighbors as we take back a corner that’s had a violent history. In the afternoon we’ll have a table at the United Way Day of Caring after-party at Century Link Field starting at 3 PM, and then to end the day we’ll be a participant in the peace vigil and concert happening at the Interfaith Community Church, 7 PM. For over ten years we have worked with the Interfaith Community Church and the three Interfaith Amigos so it’s fitting to celebrate the opening with them. In fact, it was Ted Falcon of the Interfaith Amigos who suggested that we move from the “Golden Rule” to “The Golden Reality”, inspiring much of the vision for these games.

Globally, the Compassion Games is contributing to peace, compassion, and empathy initiatives taking place beyond the greater Seattle region by including them in our “Heart Map

Seattle prides itself on being a “glocal” city (global and local), e.g. we haven’t been shy about starting the games in Seattle as a response to a challenge from the mayor and friends in the City of Louisville! In creating the games we seek to be the “organizational backbone”, if you will, for all of the individuals and organizations in Seattle who have been working on behalf of a kinder, safer and more just world for everyone. Meanwhile, we encourage other cities and communities around the world to sign the Charter for Compassion and consider organizing Compassion Games in your community.

In the online space, we’re looking to create “waves of compassion” through social media streams. Please “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, share our posts and tweets with your friends and family and help us spread the word!

Most of all, if you’re in Seattle, be a player in the games! To join our newsletter and get involved, click here!