One of the great blessings of the body of Christ is experiencing the depth and breadth of giftedness of its many members. Among her myriad contributions to the local community, St. Michael’s parishioner Alma Sisco-Smith is an active member of the Friends of the Oceanside Public Library. She contributes regularly to the organization’s newsletter, “The Seagull”, in a column titled “Alma’s Things Considered”! In a recent publication, Alma shares her thoughts on the importance of compassion and our calling to exercise it in our community. Thanks be to God for the beautiful and mysterious way in which He enables us to work together in harmony, with a diversity of gifts, for His honor and glory!
In the late summer of 2017, my book club read The Book of Joy, a wonderful capturing of a meeting between His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was a journey for the reader to experience their words and feelings of spirituality combined with not only joy but in some instances hilarious humor. For me, what lingered within was a peaceful feeling, yet lots of wonderment, particularly about compassion. Off and on thru November, some piece of info – an article on compassion, a conflict that required compassion, a witness of the act of compassion – was experienced. It left me with the notion to use compassion for this article. “A passion for the well being of others,” says the Dalai Lama. “Try to have a focus on the needs of others and not yourself,” says the Chancellor, California State University. Compassion is defined as an empathy for others with the synonyms: fellow feeling, warmth, love, care, concern, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity. That is HUGE! Chilling actually, when considering the giving or receiving of all that. More questions came: where does compassion come from; how does one get it; does everyone deserve to receive it? Kindness and love seemed to be the wrap and I learned something new. Linked to love and kindness is a chemical in our body—oxytocin—the love hormone. When released, it softens the walls of certain arteries; one can get the effect by/from a smile or small acts of kindness. Like a muscle, if unused, it becomes atrophied. Well, this I did not know and it is far more complex than even imagined. Yet, it raises for me the specter of compassion to an even higher place of appreciation and importance. I’ll leave it to the reader to explore the science further if desired. It is this higher place – it seems – from which we can all benefit. So the question is not who deserves to receive compassion, but perhaps more to give it; to indulge in our existence in a humble pursuit that may demonstrate a transformation from sadness to joy, from meanness to kindness, from selfishness to selflessness. A focus on a thing or things of joy can bring transformation. I think about the legend of the hummingbirds of Papyrus: they float free of time, carrying hopes for love, joy and celebration; carrying the delicate grace that reminds us life is rich, beauty can be found everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and laughter is life’s sweetest creation. “To know the difference between what things are and what they could be is a unique aspect of the human experience.” We must look deeper, beyond surface transactions for transformational meaning. Look with compassion to help create that Happy Place – it is within us.
Photo was taken by Carey Linde in Vancouver, Canada in 2004.