Archive for Compassionate Action Network International

He lived compassion at life’s end

By Alanna Gunne

Lying in his bed, he listened to the sounds of life.  He could smell the pot roast cooking in the kitchen and hear his housemates moving through the halls.  A movie was playing on his VCR and he was comfortable.  He had not envisioned his life this way.  He loved the beach and the sunshine.  He loved his work and his many friends knew him as a passionate foodie.  Assisted by his pain medications, he often dreamed of those days.  In a way it was a gift because he could live in whichever memory he chose – and he chose the best ones every time.

Chris Hawkins was pretty sure he would not live much longer – although over the years he had entertained this possibility countless times and still – here he was.  Thinking of ‘life’ he sometimes counted off the living that he could no longer accomplish.  First of all, he was blind – so he could no longer watch his beloved movies or see the smiles on his friends’ faces.  His frame was skeletal and he could no longer walk.  His kidneys were shutting down so his ‘big day out’ was going to the clinic for dialysis.  All of his physical and social needs were supported by the staff and volunteers at Rosehedge – his home for 14 years.

Compassion.  That was the word Chris used to describe the lifeblood that kept him going – countless acts of compassion and love.  The house cook stopped by his room regularly to chat and find out what he felt like eating.  They had long foodie talks and had become real pals.  CareTeam volunteers sat with him, sharing movies and conversation.  One older gentleman became his best friend.  With the help of a wheelchair, they would roam the neighborhood.  He would feel the fresh air on his face and listen to the kids as they raced home after school.  The nursing staff loved Chris – in fact, everyone loved him because he was so ready with a smile and encouraging word even when the days were hard to live through.

One evening, he fell asleep listening to a movie.  The nurse came in to see him and realized that he was in crisis.  That night Chris left his body in the local emergency room and was suddenly free of pain and restriction.  Those he left behind mourned.

Chris’ memorial service was held on a sunny afternoon at the church across the street from his home.  His family came from California and Portland; his friends came just as far. His father, who was in the hospital at the time, attended the service via Skype. One of his former house nurses came from Bellingham.  There were house staff, volunteers and housemates – all gathered to honor him, remember his life and support each other in their grief.  His 8-year-old nephew played the violin.  Memories were shared and the healing began.

And as Chris watched this gathering of people who had touched his life, he recognized that he was right all along.  His world was COMPASSION.

 Alanna Gunne is a  Companis Worker placed with Rosehedge/Multifaith Works,  which serves those living HIV/AIDS by providing housing, compassionate health care and supportive services that enhance the quality of their lives.

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.