Building compassion in District 69

Investing in a social form of capital starts with acts of kindness

“The best portion of a good life,” says William Wordsworth, consists in “little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”

I was proud to be part of a program called Love Oceanside early this summer, where 75 volunteers from a wide cross-section of the local churches took to the streets for a few hours of random acts of love and kindness to people we mostly had never met. I am hoping this idea continues and grows each year.

Of course, building compassionate lives is a slow process, as are all truly human processes of development.  We have the help of moments of insight and sudden outbreaks of grace, but we mostly learn compassion by practicing compassion on a daily basis. Even allowing for a climate of low interest rates, the compounding of this social form of capital still occurs!

One of the scholarly names we associate with building social capital is Jeremy Rifkin. In Rifkin’s The Empathic Civilization (2010), the author makes the case that human beings have an inherent sociability and capacity for empathy, and that as we nurture this feature of our common life, we can focus more on the quality of our lives rather than material advantage.

We can re-focus our energies away from the monochrome interests of financial capital and personal gain into a collaborative and holistic approach to major and complex issues, such as climate change, fossil fuel depletion, vested-interest protectionism and sustainable development.

In the language of Christian faith, the way Jesus expressed compassionate consciousness for his day was in his programmatic encouragement to “seek first the Kingdom of God “(Matthew’s gospel, chapter 6, verse 31). And then, he says, “all the other things will fall into their rightful place.” As our compassion extends into a biosphere-wide awareness of our connection to others and our attention to the needs of others as well as our own needs, we can let go of corporate egotism and improve the quality of life for everyone.

I believe we have the opportunity and the base to follow the advice articulated by John Wesley, the Methodist founder: “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  Or as the Dalai Lama puts it: “be kind wherever possible”  — and with a smile on his face — “… it’s always possible.”

One current example for me of this empathic consciousness is the Compassion Action Network, which is in the business of “partnering with cities to create a global movement of compassion” (http://compassion.is/compassionate-cities/about-compassionate-cities).

Since my last article on the work of the Charter for Compassion (April 27 —  http://www.pqbnews.com/opinion/149152855.html), more than one hundred local citizens have been in touch with me about this movement and how we can carry this forward here.

I take great pride in the mayor and council of the City of Parksville for unanimously affirming the Charter for Compassion this week and helping launch our process for becoming certified in the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. (My presentations to Qualicum Beach and the regional directors are in process).

I believe we are the first community on Vancouver Island to do this, and we join in not only with the bigger Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, but also with smaller communities such as Yellowknife and Whitehorse.

I am sure many of us can think of ways in which we are already expressing compassion through various current programs and activities present in this community.  And I am sure you also can think of ways that we could improve this with additional initiatives.

So here’s a question for your after-dinner conversation this week.  Who wants to come up with a list of the top ten reasons why ‘Compassionate Parksville’  and ‘Compassionate Qualicum Beach’, along with all our regions, should come into being through a combination of civic proclamation and grassroots action?

I would be interested in your answers!

The Rev. Andrew Twiddy is the Rector (pastor) of the Anglican Parish of St. Anne & St. Edmund, Parksville. Questions or comments?   atwiddy99@gmail.com, or 250-594-1549.