Compassion. What is it and what does it mean to you? Do you feel that you are a compassionate individual? Do you know someone that you feel is truly a compassionate individual? Do you feel that there is a lot of compassion in this world or not enough? I will try to explore all aspects of this word in order to clarify it for you and for myself, for I feel that this is one of those words that is used without regard to its true meaning and nature. I believe that most of you answered yes to most of those questions. Let us now look at each question on a personal basis after we define both compassion and compassionate. Now according to the New World Dictionary; Compassion is: sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help. Compassionate is: feeling or showing compassion. Now reexamine your answers to the questions that were first asked, do you find yourself changing any of your answers? How often do you find yourself walking passed someone in need of assistance. Seeing a pregnant woman or an elderly individual struggling with bags of groceries and you having your hands empty walk on by not wanting to be bothered because you are in a hurry to get somewhere or do something. Compassion according to its definition, is not just a word that is to be spoken, but a word that requires action. When that word is acted upon, you will find out that you are the one who will benefit from the action in the long run. I believe that we as a society in whole have become scared to act in a compassionate manner of any type. This is mostly do to the people who are greedy bringing lawsuits against those that have helped them in their time of need or they are those individuals whom have been threatened by bullies to prevent them from doing any thing that is compassionate towards others for fear of what might be done to them. I believe that there is little compassion in the world today and that there is even less compassion in our governments and big businesses, for wherever there is a dollar to be made, big businesses will be there to make it or try to make it and the government will be there to try and take it away, or at least what they can of it. I feel that society as a whole has become less compassionate due to the deterioration of the family unit as a whole and the values that are within the family unit. For as parents raise their children, they teach them and instill in them those family values and compassion. For as parents care for their children, children learn compassion from their parents, not just for others, but for all of creation. For if we are to have true compassion and be truly compassionate, we must show true compassion for all of creation not just for other humans, but all creatures that live and breath on this earth. We must be willing to help all of those in need, whether they have skin, feather, scales or fur. Whether they walk on four legs or just two, whether they fly thru the sky, swim in the waters or slither across the land. I feel that there are some out there that are striving to be as compassionate as they can, working with what they have, however there are many more people who do not care about others. I want to show you a few ways in which you can help if you feel the urge to. If you would like to help us, tell others about my site and Join the MSN Group Creations Guardians where you will be able to connect with other compassionate people around the world who are making a difference in the lives of People and Animals. A great place where you can take instant action on numerous issues to help others. Please, help those who truly are less fortunate than yourself, those who are in true need. For we are truly here to help one another, not to make our mark in history, but to preserve the environment so that future generations will have a history to study. That is the true way to leave our mark in and on history, by ensuring that the world is alive for the future and will remain alive for years and centuries to come. RECOMMENDED READING: Sowing Seeds of Compassion - by Joanne Stepaniak http://vegsource.com/joanne/seeds.htm The Compassionate Life: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth: http://vegsource.com/joanne/compassionatelife.htm TEACHING YOUR KIDS HOW TO BE COMPASSIONATE: It is the frustration of not being able to respond, of having to watch and accept human pain and suffering, that eventually hardens the hearts of children. First, parents need to realize how profound an influence they have on their children. One crucial common denominator that studies have shown in their studies of people who showed unusual courage and compassion was the strong influence that role models—particularly their parents and parent-substitutes—played in their lives. We can start with our own behavior by modeling empathy and charity in ordinary, daily situations: Perform small acts of Compassion to family members without being asked; stop what we're doing and pay full attention when our children come to us with concerns; pick up trash when we're walking in the park or on the beach; buy extra food for the food bank while your grocery shopping, even if we only have enough money for a few jars of baby food; rake an elderly neighbor's leaves while we're doing our own and make an effort to get to know our neighbors. These things don't take a lot of time or money, but because children are so affected by the behavior of everyday figures in their lives, these simple acts of decency go a long way in teaching compassion. Even paying attention to and altering our automatic responses can make a difference. How many of us have heard our children mimic our behavior when we're irritated in traffic? "You knucklehead, where did you learn to drive?" How much better to model, "Wow, he must really be in a hurry," or "Looks like she's having a rough day." Who knows, later we may even hear, "Wow, Mom, you must be having a bad day," when we snap at the dog for tracking in dirt! And, according to Dr. Cohn, "Research strongly supports the theory that engaging in small or limited acts of kindness and compassion often leads people to undertake more expansive and sustained acts of altruism than would have otherwise have been the case..." Another way to teach compassion to young children is by asking them to put themselves in other's places, to learn to develop sensitivity to other's feelings. "How would you feel if Michael shoved you down?" or, "How would you feel if your friends at preschool never asked you to play dress-up with them?" Or, ask your child to imagine how lonely your elderly neighbor must feel without family in town. You can brainstorm ideas to help them feel better. Take her cookies or a handmade card. Offer to drive her to the grocery store, offer to walk her Dog, or spend some time just listening to him or her talk. Also, getting young children involved in ongoing tasks at home can help them see how they can contribute to a group effort and make a difference. Make sure it's not just busy work or something you feel a need to have done perfectly. Give them a task that really needs to be done to help the household run smoothly, feeding the dog, setting the table or watering the garden. Once children reach kindergarten age (or even earlier for some kids), they can begin helping in a larger way, outside their own immediate family and neighborhood. It's important that volunteering be a meaningful experience for children. They should not feel coerced to participate in community service the "you're going to do this because it's good for you" method. Give them several choices about what type of activities they'd like to engage in. They'll also have a better experience if the activity fits the child a rambunctious child will do much better in an active outdoor situation than in a project which requires him to sit still for long periods. I first started with Recycling than I became involved in world Hunger issues and collected food for local food banks, feeding the Homeless at some of our local parks. Just to name a few. Social Skills - Growing Up To Be Responsible Adults: We all want our children to grow up to be responsible adults. We want them to feel, think, and act with respect for themselves and for others. To do this, children need lots of help form parents and caregivers. Learning to be responsible includes learning to: show respect and compassion for others Practice honesty show courage by standing up for what we believe develop self-control out of consideration for others maintain self-respect. Here are some things you can do at home: Watch for the chance to teach your children responsible behavior through everyday situations. Share your moral values with them. Show compassion and concern when others are suffering. Read stories together that teach lessons or the value of persistence from "The Little Engine That Could". Talk about complicated decisions. Help children understand how the choices they make will affect them and others. Visit with teachers to discuss ways parents, caregivers and the school can reinforce the same lessons about good character. Talk with other parents and agree on acceptable behavior for children's play and parties. Take turns supervising to show that all the parents agree on the standards of behavior. VOLUNTEER IDEAS FOR CHILDREN: Make handmade toys for children in a homeless shelter, low-income day-care center or hospital. Grow a community garden and share the produce with a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Read to a sick child in the hospital. Be a friend to a friendless kid. Help an elderly person record her memoirs or write letters for her. Donate outgrown clothing and toys to the needy. Adopt a park with a group of friends and keep it clean. Collect canned food before each baseball game (or soccer game, etc.) and deliver it to the food bank. Make First-Day-of-School Bags for children in homeless shelters. Ways for Teenagers to Help Other People by Volunteering: Have you ever thought about volunteering your time to a local charity or community organization? There are many different reasons for you to start volunteering: To help others To learn about an activity or organization that interests you To beat boredom (if you find yourself sitting around the house feeling totally bored, volunteering in an activity you enjoy can be a great way to change things) To overcome a loss you have experienced (one of the best ways to help yourself in a time of loss is to help others) To gain perspective on life (there is no better way to understand your blessings than to help people in need) Your reasons for volunteering are as individual as you are, but no matter what your reasons you can get a lot out of volunteering. You can learn about yourself, learn about others and meet a lot of interesting people by volunteering. You can help others as you help yourself. For more information on volunteering in general and the advantages of volunteering: http://www.impactonline.org/ and http://www.volunteermatch.org/virtual/ SERVEnet is your one-stop portal for information and resources on service and volunteering. Use SERVEnet to post and find volunteer and career opportunities, service news, events, best practices, and other resources. http://www.servenet.org/ # 1. Homeless Shelters If you live in a city of any size, then there is at least one homeless shelter that helps homeless people with meals, beds and other services. Most homeless shelters welcome volunteers and have a variety of programs through which you can get involved. You might help prepare or distribute meals, work behind the scenes in the business office, help organize a food drive to stock the pantry, etc. You can learn more about the problem of homelessness and ways you can help by looking at this site: http://nch.ari.net/facts.html Any homeless shelter will offer similar opportunities in your area. Look in the phone book for a local homeless shelter if you are interested. # 2. Food Banks Food banks often work with homeless shelters, but they also serve poor people living in the community (especially around the holidays). Food banks collect food, manage their inventory and distribute food to those in need. The following links show you the different volunteer opportunities available at several food banks around the country: Greater Philadelphia Food Bank (this site also has a good link that describes what a food bank does) http://www.libertynet.org/gpfb/ Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana http://www.gleaners.org/ Any food bank will offer similar opportunities in your area. Look in the phone book for a local food bank if you are interested # 3 Special Olympics As described on the web site for Special Olympics International, http://www.specialolympics.org/ "Special Olympics is an international program of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with mental retardation." The site also describes a wide variety of volunteer activities, including sports training, fund raising, administrative help, competition planning and staffing, etc. Look in the phone book for a local office or search the Special Olympics Web Site for more information. http://www.specialolympics.org/ # 4 Habitat for Humanities Habitat for Humanities builds and gives houses to poor people in local communities. Volunteers not only help others, but can learn a great deal about building houses by getting involved. See the Habitat for Humanities web site for more information. http://www.habitat.org/ Call the national office or your local office for information about volunteer programs in your area. ***** What You can do to help the homeless: Be patient - most programs are underfunded and understaffed. Staff are often overwhelmed with trying to meet people's basic needs or coping with emergencies. Let them know how you can help, when, and for how long. Don't commit to more than one visit or task until you're sure this is the place for you. Possible tasks include: Work at a shelter: perhaps an evening or overnight shift. Help with clerical work: answer phones, type, file, sort mail. Serve food, wash dishes, sort or distribute clothes. Contributions: ---------- While the concern and support demonstrated by volunteer work are essential, material help is a necessity too. The end to homelessness is a long road; in the meantime, homeless people and those running programs need help every day. Needed items include: Clothing: The lack of clean, well-fitting clothes and shoes causes great hardship beyond exposure to the elements; it hurts one's self-image and one's chance to get ahead. No matter how many clothes homeless people used to have, they must travel light, with few opportunities to safely store, or adequately clean, what they can't carry. On job interviews, a poorly dressed person has little chance for success. Give your unused clothes to those who need them. Before you give your own clothes or start a clothing drive, talk to your local shelter: find out what items they really need. Most have limited storage space, and can't use winter clothes in summer or vice versa. Some serve only a certain group of people. Please clean the clothes before you donate them. Contribute in-kind services and materials: copying, printing, food, transportation, marketing assistance, computer equipment and assistance, electrical work, building materials, plumbing, etc. Donate household goods or other items: kitchen utensils, furniture, books, etc. Toys, games, stuffed animals, dolls, and diapers are also in high demand. Support a homeless person or family: as they move out of a shelter or transitional housing program, assist by contributing household goods, baby-sitting, moral support. Raise funds for a program: ask your group to abstain from one meal and donate the proceeds to a shelter or soup kitchen. Organize a bike or walk-a-thon, or a yard sale and donate the proceeds. Sponsor a benefit concert featuring local musicians (and include homeless musicians on the program). Give directly: carry fast-food certificates, change, extra sandwiches, or fruit to give to homeless people. Organize "survival kits" to give out to homeless people, with items like cups, pot, pan, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, cosmetics. (Try coordinating this through a group that gives out meals from a van, for example). During cold weather organize drives for blankets, coats, hats, scarves, mittens and socks. Help homeless people contact loved ones: give them the opportunity to make free, long distance calls on special days. Encourage your company to hire homeless people: most homeless adults desperately want to work, but need an employer to give them a chance. Raise money for security deposits, to help families meet the first month's rent. Help build or fix up houses or shelters: check with your local public housing authority or Habitat for Humanity (their national number is 1-800-422-4828). Offer your professional skills and services directly or to assist in job training: many services and skills are needed, including secretarial, catering, plumbing, accounting, management, carpentry, tutoring, public relations, fundraising, legal, medical, dentistry, writing, child care, counseling, etc. Share your hobbies: teach a group, or work one-to-one with a homeless person. Help children: work with program directors who are coordinating field trips, picnics or art workshops for homeless children. Involve others: convince your classmates, coworkers, church members, or civic club to join, or support, your efforts. Advocacy: Advocacy is critical to ending homelessness. Advocacy means working with homeless people to bring about positive changes in policies and programs on the local, state, and federal levels. It means working with various sectors of the community, e.g., city/county officials, Members of Congress, direct service providers, and members of the private sector, to develop workable strategies. Here are some ways you might help: Respond to Legislative Alerts. These alerts give the most up-to-date information about what is happening in Congress affecting homelessness, and what you can do about it. Register homeless people to vote Volunteer at your local, state, or national housing or homeless advocacy coalition. See our links page for the Directory of Homeless & Housing Advocacy Coalitions for the name of the coalition nearest you. If you can't volunteer, send a donation. Attend neighborhood and public meetings and speak up in favor of low-income housing, group homes, shelters, and homelessness prevention programs. Organize site visits to homeless programs with political leaders and the media to highlight ways that your community is successfully addressing the many problems associated with homelessness. Call or write the media to inform them of your concern for homeless people in your area. Encourage homeless people, agency volunteers, and staff to write government officials, asking them to give the issue of homelessness top priority and to find humane solutions to the problem. Use opportunities like special holiday meals to do this; provide paper, pens, stamped envelopes, and sample messages at every meeting and event. Have a "Call In Day". Try getting a few people with mobile phones and go to shelters and meal programs to get homeless people, volunteers and staff to call the Governor (Mayor, Council member...) to stop future cuts in essential services. Or create a "reverse panhandling" activity: get homeless people and other volunteers to hand out quarters and ask people to call their legislators. Write letters to or call public officials at the city, county, state and federal levels asking what they are doing about homelessness. Mention relevant legislation. When legislators receive more than a few visits or letters about any subject, they sit up and take note. Personal visits are the most potent; letters and phone calls are next. Tell them your feelings and experiences. Addresses for public officials are available at the local library. Letters to Members of Congress may be addressed as follows: To a Senator: The Honorable (Firstname Lastname) United States Senate Washington, DC 20510 To a Representative: The Honorable (Firstname Lastname) U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515 To call anyone in Congress: Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121.