Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Blog closed -- NEW WEB SITE!!!!

We now have our own Web site, with a blog incorporated into it. 
All of the posts from this blog have been transferred to the new site.
This blog will no longer be maintained or updated.
Please go to:

Friday, May 24, 2013

If I Could Change the World I Would . . .

How cool is this? Outside The Cove restaurant. If you could change the world you would . . . . . 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

We are God's Hands

From Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson:
As the wreckage of Oklahoma's tornado confronts us with our own vulnerability, let us affirm the Biblical wisdom that God is not in the wind or the storm, but in the countless responses of rescue, caring, and goodness. We are God's eyes: to witness, to cry, to see. We are God's hands: to salvage, to embrace, to redeem and rebuild. May God's persistent, resilient love be visible through our renewed efforts of prayer, voluntarism, and support for the victims of this eruption of nature's power.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thomas Merton's Epiphany: "Overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people . . . "

The peaceCENTER's Ann Helmke and Susan Ives just returned from a week in Louisville, attending the International Summit on Compassionate Organizations, Louisville's annual Festival of Faith, including a talk by the Dalai Lama. Thomas Merton is Louisville's adopted son (he lived in the hermitage at Gethsemane, about 40 miles south)  and this marker commemorates his "epiphany." Merton wrote of this moment:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness. The whole illusion of a separate holy existence is a dream. Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or of my monastic life: but the conception of “separation from the world” that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, “spiritual men,” men of interior life, what have you.
Thomas MertonCertainly these traditional values are very real, but their reality is not of an order outside everyday existence in a contingent world, nor does it entitle one to despise the secular: though “out of the world,” we are in the same world as everybody else, the world of the bomb, the world of race hatred, the world of technology, the world of mass media, big business, revolution, and all the rest. We take a different attitude to all these things, for we belong to God. Yet so does everybody else belong to God. We just happen to be conscious of it, and to make a profession out of this consciousness. But does that entitle us to consider ourselves different, or even better, than others? The whole idea is preposterous.
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: “Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others.” To think that for sixteen or seventeen years I have been taking seriously this pure illusion that is implicit in so much of our monastic thinking.
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.
I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
This changes nothing in the sense and value of my solitude, for it is in fact the function of solitude to make one realize such things with a clarity that would be impossible to anyone completely immersed in the other cares, the other illusions, and all the automatisms of a tightly collective existence. My solitude, however, is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them — and that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just in my own. It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone, they are not “they” but my own self. There are no strangers!
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Compassionate Mother's Day

"Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts, 
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, 
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. 
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn 
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. 
We, the women of one country, 
will be too tender of those of another country 
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.” 

Continue reading this Mother's Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe 
and learn more about the history and original purpose of a 
Mother's Day for Peace

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Already a compassionate city: the Katrina example

We're collecting examples of ways San Antonio is already a compassionate city. Here's one from 2005 that defines compassion:

In a better world, Phil Hardberger's decision might not have seemed extraordinary.
Four days after Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans and left hundreds of thousands of people struggling to escape, San Antonio's then-mayor announced on CNN that the city would open its arms and its pocketbook to anyone who needed help.
While other cities were closing their doors and nobody knew how San Antonio would fund the effort or absorb a growing mass of evacuees, Hardberger faced questions about logistics with answers from the heart.
“We want to give them back their dignity and put some stability in their life. And whatever we need to do, we're going to do,” Hardberger said. “We're going to go ahead and write whatever checks need to be written right now to take care of these people and let them know that people in San Antonio love them.”
It was a flash of humanity amid the ugliness and despair of the disaster. It also was a defining moment for Hardberger's administration, a decision that would capture national recognition, become a source of local pride and forever burnish the city's social and cultural landscape.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fable of the Forgiving Father

This version of the parable of the prodigal son was a great hit during the last session of  our book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life."

Feeling foot-loose and frisky, a feather-brained fellow forced his fond father to fork over the farthings. He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune, feasting fabulously with faithless friends.
Finally facing famine and fleeced by his fellows-in-folly, he found himself a feed flinger in a filthy farmyard. Fairly famishing, he fain would have filled his frame with foraged food from the fodder fragments. “Fooey, my father’s flunkies fare far fancier,” the frazzled fugitive fumed feverishly, frankly facing facts.
Frustrated by failure and filled with foreboding, he fled forthwith to his family. Falling at his father’s feet, he floundered forlornly, “Father, I have flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor. . . .” But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching, frantically flagged the flunkies to fetch forth the finest fatling and fixed a feast.
The fugitive’s faultfinding frater frowned on the fickle forgiveness of former folderol. His fury flashed—but fussing was futile. The far-sighted father figured, “Such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids fervent festivity—for the fugitive is found! Unfurl the flags! With fanfares flaring, let fun and frolic freely flow. Former failure is forgotten, folly forsaken. Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortitude.”
Adapted from Luke 15:11–32. Originally published in HIS magazine, October 1977, © InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Author unknown.

Compassionate San Antonio: Community garden to feed the homeless

Another example of San Antonio being a Compassionate city!

Signing the Charter

Thanks to the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue at the Turkish Raindrop House for giving San Antonio CompassionNET time during their program of Compassion in the Holy Books to introduce the Charter for Compassion and give the participants the opportunity to sign the 3'x6' vinyl banner. We were especially excited to obtain the signature of Beytullah Solak, whose mother lives in Gaziantep, Turkey -- the first predominantly Muslim country to be recognized as a Compassionate City! Photograph by Chuck Gibbons.

Monday, April 29, 2013

I can never be what I ought to be . . .

During Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- of our study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" we wrote this quote on the board for reflection:
  “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  
I can never be what I ought to be  
until you are what you ought to be.   
This is the interrelated structure of reality.” 
Some asked for the reference: “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, ” Commencement Address for Oberlin College By Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,  June 1965, Oberlin Ohio

We also added this quotation to add insight:
No matter how big a nation is, it is no stronger that its weakest people, and as long as you keep a person down, some part of you has to be down there to hold him down, so it means you cannot soar as you might otherwise. Marian Anderson

The Rabbi's Gift

We also told this story during our study of Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life":
The Rabbi's Gift

 Once a great order, a decaying monastery had only five monks left. The order was dying. In the surrounding deep woods, there was a little hut that a Rabbi from a nearby town used from time to time. The monks always knew the Rabbi was home when they saw the smoke from his fire rise above the tree tops. As the Abbot agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to him to ask the Rabbi if he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.

The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot at his hut. When the Abbot explained the reason for his visit, the Rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the Abbot and the Rabbi sat together discussing the Bible and their faiths. The time came when the Abbot had to leave. “It has been a wonderful visit,” said the Abbot, “but I have failed in my purpose. Is there nothing you can tell me to help save my dying order?” “The only thing I can tell you,” said the Rabbi, “is that the Messiah is among you.”
When the Abbot returned to the monastery, his fellow monks gathered around him and asked, “What did the Rabbi say?” “He couldn’t help,” the Abbot answered. “The only thing he did say, as I was leaving was that the Messiah is among us. Though I do not know what these words mean.”
In the months that followed, the monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the Rabbi’s words: The Messiah is among us? Could he possibly have meant that the Messiah is one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one of us is the Messiah? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even so, Elred is virtually always right. Maybe the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. Of course the Rabbi didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah?
As they contemplated in this manner, the monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah and in turn, each monk began to treat himself with extraordinary respect.
It so happened that people still occasionally came to visit the beautiful forest and monastery. Without even being conscious of it, visitors began to sense a powerful spiritual aura. They were sensing the extraordinary respect that now filled the monastery. Hardly knowing why, people began to come to the monastery frequently to picnic, to play, and to pray. They began to bring their friends, and their friends brought their friends. Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the older monks. After a while, one asked if he could join them. Then, another and another asked if they too could join the abbot and older monks. Within a few years, the monastery once again became a thriving order, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the realm.

Crossing the River

We told this story at the conclusion of Step #11 -- Recognize the Other -- in our study of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life":

Crossing the River

Two monks were on a pilgrimage. One day, they came to a deep river. At the edge of the river, a young woman sat weeping, because she was afraid to cross the river without help. She begged the two monks to help her. The younger monk turned his back. The members of their order were forbidden to touch a woman.

But the older monk picked up the woman without a word and carried her across the river. He put her down on the far side and continued his journey. The younger monk came after him, scolding him and berating him for breaking his vows. He went on this way for a long time.

Finally, at the end of the day the older monk turned to the younger one. “I only carried her across the river. You have been carrying her all day.”

Monday, April 22, 2013


We are nearing the end of our 12-week study of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life." This coming Thursday we contemplate Step #11: the recognition that there is no "us" and no "them." I am reminded of this poem:

By Adrienne Rich

What has happened here will do
To bite the living world in two,
Half for me and half for you.
Here at last I fix a line
Severing the world’s design
Too small to hold both yours and mine.
There’s enormity in a hair
Enough to lead men not to share
Narrow confines of a sphere
But put an ocean or a fence
Between two opposite intents.
A hair would span the difference.

Entertaining angels: Step #11

Marc Chagall

Hebrews 13:1-2

King James Version (KJV)
13 Let brotherly love continue.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Happy Earth Day!

All of us have a God in us, 
and that God is the spirit that unites all life, 
everything that is on this planet. 
It must be this voice that is telling me to do something, 
and I am sure it's the same voice that is speaking to everybody on this planet - 
at least everybody who seems to be concerned about the fate of the world, 
the fate of this planet. 

- Wangari Maathai 
 Noble Peace prize winner, 
Deputy Minister of Environment, 
founder Green Belt movement in Kenya. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Compassion Beads Video

Compassion -- Dignity -- Equanimity -- Forgiveness -- Gratitude

Humility -- Integrity -- Justice -- Kindness --  Love

We now have a video explaining how to make and use Compassion Beads

We've been asked whether we would be upset if people made their own beads rather than buying them from us -- of course not! However, if you are making them to give away we do ask that you credit  Dr. Doty for coming up with the mnemonic/mantra. 

The beads can be bought in our etsy store. Jen, our bead-stringer extraordinaire, can assemble kits if you want a bunch of them for a group handicrafts project. The e-mail contact is on the store's page to get a price quote for kits. 

Friday, April 19, 2013


In our Thursday study of Karen Armstrong's"Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" we discussed ways in which we react to injustice. One way is violence -- "fight." Another way is passivity -- "flight." The third way, of course is with nonvilent conflict engagement.

We struggled to define what was meant by passivity. Sometimes doing nothing is an appropriate nonviolent response: refusing to engage in a fruitless argument, for example. Here are some quotations that may help us understand better.

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral." Paulo Freire

"If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality."  Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."  Elie Wiesel

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."  Elie Wiesel 

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all -- the apathy of human beings.”  Helen Keller

“Christians have no business thinking that the good life consists mainly in not doing bad things. We have no business thinking that to do evil in this world you have to be a Bengal tiger, when, in fact, it is enough to be a tame tabby—a nice person but not a good one. In short, Pentecost makes it clear that nothing is so fatal to Christianity as indifference. ”   William Sloane Coffin Jr., Living The Truth In A World Of Illusions

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

If you truly loved yourself . . .

"The good outnumber you, and we always will"

This is from comedian Patton Oswalt, whose Facebook posting about the the Boston Marathon tragedy appears to have struck a nerve in the social media: 
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”
But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths. 
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. . . .  This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness. 
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago 
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Morals Of Business Students

Little did we realize when we started exploring compassion that we'd have to learn about neuroscience! The Mind Report is a series of fascinating videos in which cognitive scientists from Yale University converse with a wide array of thinkers, exploring the latest findings on how we think, feel and behave.

In this episode, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind who recently began teaching at NYU-Stern School of Business tells Tamar Gendler of Yale what he’s learned about morality and the business world:

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hear us on the RADIO talking about Compassion!

Remember when we told you than Ann Helmke and Susan Ives were going to be on the radio talking about the Charter for Compassion and our campaign to have San Antonio recognized as a compassionate city? Well, it happened and we forgot to give you the link so, if you missed it, you can listen right now. Even listen twice. It's online at Texas Public Radio. Just click here. Remember that we shared the hour with Richard Blanco, the poet who read at the inauguration? You can listen to him too. We won't mind. 

Equality vs. Justice

Thursday, April 11, 2013


At the SoL Centers two-evening event, "Compassionate Hospitality in the Asian Traditions," Dr. Lopita Nath lead us in a Namaste reflection.  Here is a video of Dr. Nath, along with the words she used:

I honor the place in you
in which the universe dwells.
I honor the place in you,
which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.
When you are in that place in you
and I am in that place in me
We are one.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How not to say the wrong thing

Step #8 of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" is "Check How We Speak to One Another." This op-ed from the Los Angeles Times is a brilliant formula for speaking to those who are suffering.

It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory. 
Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie's aneurysm, that's Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie's aneurysm, that was Katie's husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan's patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.
Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring. 
Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings. 
When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it.   Read the whole article here

Friday, April 5, 2013

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another -- Infinity Meditation

Rosalyn Collier opened the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" this week with a meditation on the infinity symbol, which she uses as a sign of good communication. We caught in on tape so you can practice it on your own:

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another - Nails in the Fence

We closed our book study of  Step #8 in Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" with this story:

Nails in the Fence

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.
The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.
Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.”
The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said “I hope you can forgive me father for the holes I put in you.”
“Of course I can,” said the father.

Step #8: Check How We Speak to One Another -- "I" Statements

In our study of Karen Armstrong's book "Twelves Steps to a Compassionate Life" being conducted at Oblate School of Theology, Rosalyn Collier taught us how to use "I" Statements instead of "you" statements.  Here's a copy of her chalkboard explaining the format. It really works!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Events in April 2013

April 2&9: Compassionate Hospitality: a taste of Asian traditions at the SoL Center, University Presbyterian Church, 300 Bushnell. $35 includes supper. Registration required: call 210-732-9927. Whether we consider the Hindu tradition of “Namaste,” respecting the divine in the other, compassionate Buddhism with its emphasis on service, the outpouring of Sikh generosity in meals shared with all, or Christian origins from Jesus, a west Asian filled with the hospitality of that continent, much can be learned sitting at round tables, listening and sharing a meal with each other. Explore the Charter for Compassion and build on successful interfaith dialogues. Part of the 2013 Pilgramage of Compassion.

April 7: The second annual San Antonio Walk Against Genocide, at Barshop Jewish Community Center, Wurzbach & Military, 2-4 pm. Organizations working in the areas of conflict resolution, peace-building and genocide awareness/prevention will have tables where Walk participants can educate themselves and learn how to get involved. walkagainstgenocidesa.org. We'll be there with the Charter for Compassion for you to sign!

April 25: Abrahamic Traditions panel, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Raindrop Turkish House, 4337 Vance Jackson Rd.Ste#203. Rabbi Sam Stahl, Pastor (ELCA) Michael Lawrence-Weedon and Imam Omar Shakir will speak about Compassionate Stories from Scripture. Refreshments; Donation $10. RSVP oguz@interfaithdialog.org.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dirty Laundry

This story found on Facebook reminded us of discussions at the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life"  at Oblate School of Theology.  What do we not know? Through what lenses are we seeing the world?

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean; she doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: "Look, she's finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this? " The husband replies, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows." And so it is with life... What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look

April 25: Compassionate Story in Holy Books

Friday, March 29, 2013

Golden Rule Chronology

Thanks to San Antonio's 2013 Peace Laureate, Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, for passing on this time line of the Golden Rule.  Here are some of the highlights; you can read the entire list here.

1000,000 BC   The fictional Fred Flintstone helps a stranger who was robbed and left to die. He says "I'd want him to help me." Golden rule thinking is born!

222-235   Roman Emperor Alexander Severus adopts the golden rule as his motto, displays it on public buildings, and promotes peace among religions. Some say the golden rule is called golden because Severus wrote it on his wall in gold.

c. 810   The Book of Kells, a gospel book lavishly illustrated by Irish monks, illustrates the golden rule as a dog extending a paw of friendship to a rabbit. 

c. 1200   Inca leader Manco C├ípac in Peru teaches: "Each one should do unto others as he would have others do unto him." 

1259    Gulistan, by the Persian poet Sa'di, has these verses, which are now displayed at the entrance of the United Nations Hall of Nations: "Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, Other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain."

1688   Four Pennsylvania Quakers sign the first public protest against slavery in the American colonies, basing this on the golden rule: "There is a saying, that we shall do unto others as we would have them do unto us - making no difference in generation, descent, or color. What in the world would be worse to do to us, than to have men steal us away and sell us for slaves to strange countries, separating us from our wives and children? This is not doing to others as we would be done by; therefore we are against this slave traffic."

1850   President Millard Fillmore, in his State of the Union Address, says: "The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us, and justice and conscience should form the rule of conduct."    

1903   Jack London's People of the Abyss novel denounces urban poverty: "The golden rule determines that East London is an unfit place to live. Where you would not have your own babe live is not a fit place for the babes of other men. It is a simple thing, this golden rule. What is not good enough for you is not good enough for other men." 

1922   Hazrat Khan's "Ten Sufi Thoughts" says "Although different religions, in teaching man to act harmoniously and peacefully, have different laws, they all meet in one truth: do unto others as you would they should do unto you." 

San Antonio nonprofit Hope for Humans named 2013 Neuro Film Festival Grand Prize Winner

Thanks to NOWCAST for sending us info about this compassionate San Antonio organization. "Hope for Humans, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in San Antonio that serves the northern region of Uganda, was awarded the 2013 Neuro Film Festival Grand Prize by the American Brain Foundation on March 22, 2013.

"The award-winning film follows Dr. Gazda and Hope for Humans Co-Founder, Sally Baynton, Ph.D., to a care center they established in Odek, a small community in northern Uganda, that has seen hundreds of children suffer from a neurological disease called Nodding Syndrome. Although there is no known cause or cure for this mysterious disease, Hope for Humans works to provide treatment to children, support their families, and explore possibilities for curing Nodding Syndrome."  Read more about it on the NOWCAST Website.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tune in to CompassionNET on KTSX-FM89.1 at 3:30 on April 2

Tune into KTSX Texas Public Radio FM 89.1 on Tuesday, April 2nd  to hear the peaceCENTER's Ann Helmke and Susan Ives interviewed about Compassionate San Antonio by David Martin Davies on "The Source." Starting on Monday, "The Source" will air Monday through Thursday starting at 3 pm. We expect to be on at about 3:30 pm. The show is also becoming a call in show, so here's a chance to ask questions -- or add your support. This is the media debut for San Antonio CompassionNET and we are very excited!

We do not Have A Money Problem in America

"We do not have a money problem in America. We have a values and priorities problem."
Marian Wright Edelman, Children's Defense Fund


Anel Flores: "San Antonio is a super-loving city"

From the Katie Couric Show, 26 March, 2013. "More and more gay people are choosing to become parents, but not where you might imagine. You may think gay parents are choosing cities like New York or San Francisco, but the latest U.S. Census revealed that the city with the highest concentration of gay families is San Antonio, Texas. Erika Casasola and Anel Flores are partners raising two daughters, 18-year-old Jessica and 14-year-old Klarissa, in San Antonio." When asked by Katie, "Why San Antonio?" Anel answers: "It's a super-loving city.. . "

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Charter for Compassion

If you haven't seen this yet . . .

Step #4: Empathy -- Active Listening & Attention Span

During Step #4 of our study of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life," we spend a lot of our time talking about active listening. This Calvin and Hobbes cartoon raises an interesting point: what role do you think the fast pace of the media has affected our ability to pay attention to the words -- and feelings and actions -- of people in real life?

What do YOU need?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Step #5: Mindfulness -- House of a Thousand Mirrors

In session 5, on Mindfulness we have a five minute journaling exercise reflecting on this passage by the Dalai Lama: “When I became enlightened the whole world became enlightened too.

We recently found this folktale from Japan which makes a similar point:

Long ago in a small, far away village, there was place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the House, he thought to himself, “This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often.”

In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, “That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Step #6: Action -- Coexist

This story taken from Buddhist Boot Camp is a PERFECT illustration for Step 6 of Karen Armstrong's book, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" -- ACTION. We'll be discussing this at our next session of the book study at Oblate School of Theology on Thursday, March 21.

The streetlight turned yellow, so he stopped his car at the crosswalk instead of accelerating through the intersection to beat the red light. The woman who was driving behind him got really angry and started honking her horn. She was extremely mad that she missed her chance to cross the intersection behind him (and because stopping the car made everything on her lap drop to the floor: cell phone, makeup, and half a sandwich).

She was still in the middle of yelling and cussing at the man in front of her when she heard a tap on her window and looked up to see the face of a very serious police officer. He ordered her to exit the vehicle with her hands up and took her down to the police station to be searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, she was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal belongings. "I'm very sorry for this mistake. When I pulled up behind your car, you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing up a storm. But it didn't make sense... You have the 'What Would Jesus Do' license plate frame on the car, the 'Namaste' decal on the back window, and the 'Coexist' bumper sticker, so I figured you had stolen the car. My Bad!"

Step #5: Mindfulness -- "Worry is a misuse of imagination"

Video: If you could stand in their shoes

This beautiful video from The Cleavland Clinic speaks about empathy in a health care setting but has a message for us all.

Monday, March 18, 2013

UBUNTU: I am because we are

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ''UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?'''UBUNTU' in the Xhosa culture means: "I am because we are"

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Step #5: Mindfulness -- The Fat Buddha

At each session of the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" we end with a story. Here is the one Rosalyn found for Step #5, Mindfulness:

The holy Buddha was sitting on the side of the road when a handsome young soldier walked by and seeing him said “you look like a pig."  The Buddha replied “and you look like a god."  The soldier taken aback asked him what he meant be that. The Buddha replied that he sits all day contemplating god and so that is who he sees.  “You, my friend, must be contemplating other things."

Pilgrimage of Compassion: April 2 & 9

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pilgrimage of Compassion: Embody Compassion Dance Workshop

Sr. Martha Ann Kirk reported that throughout the day more than 80 people attended the Embody Dance Workshop at the University of the Incarnate Word, part of the peaceCENTER/CompassionNET Pilgrimage of Compassion. Here are a couple of videos taken towards the end of the day. We hope to have some still photos of some of the other dancers available here soon.

San Antonio ACTS HIV/AIDS Ministry performing a dance to "Patchwork Quilt" at the Dance Workshop held March 9, 2013 at the University of the Incarnate Word. Dancers: Robert Alexander Diaz, Denise Ezquerra, Susan Jones, Catherine L. Cuasay, Delia Segura and Maureen Leach. "Patchwork Quilt" is the version by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Dance lead by Terri Boggess at Embody Compassion Dance Workshop at University of the Incarnate Word, March 9, 2013 to "Ubi Caritas." The chant, sung in Latin, means "Where charity and love are, God is there."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Step #4: Empathy - Have You Filled Your Bucket Today?

This is the book that Karen showed us at the March 7th session of the Karen Armstrong "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" book study at Oblate School of Theology.  From the publisher:
"This best-selling, 32-page picture book has become a basic teaching tool that encourages positive behavior as children see how very easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis. As the pages turn, children learn the meaning of the terms, bucket filling and bucket dipping and discover that when they fill someone's bucket, they fill their own. This popular book's call to action is: Why not decide to be a bucket filler today and every day?"

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Step #2: Empathy -- If a child lives with . . . .

Thanks to Daniel for providing us with this thought-provoking poem:

Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism,
he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear,
he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with pity,
he learns to feel sorry for himself.
If a child lives with ridicule,
he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with jealousy,
he learns what envy is.
If a child lives with shame,
he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with encouragement,
he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with tolerance,
he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with praise,
he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance,
he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval,
he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition,
he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with sharing,
he learns about generosity.
If a child lives with honesty and fairness,
he learns what truth and justice are.
If a child lives with security,
he learns to have faith in himself and in those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness,
he learns that the world is a nice place in which to live.
If you live with serenity,
your child will live with peace of mind.

This Saturday, March 9, at Incarnate Word!!!

This is the next stop on the San Antonio Pilgrimage of Compassion:

Saturday, March 9, 9 am to 4 pm. INCARNATING COMPASSION: Dance and Drama to turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. When Jesus wanted to teach service, he dramatized the message taking a towel and washing feet. When Mariam wanted to claim and thank God for freedom from slavery, she led dance with tambourine in hand. Young and old are invited to a day of sharing and learning dance and drama. Come prepared to move. Free and open to the public. Marian Hall Ballroom, University of the Incarnate Word. Organized by Sister Martha Ann Kirk of UIW and featuring other prayer dance leaders from across San Antonio. Part of the peaceCENTER's Pilgramage of Compassion. Join us!  You do not have to stay all day -- come for as long as you can.

Step #4: Empathy -- They Came for Me

In an earlier post we included the mousetrap fable that we used in our study of Karen Armstrobg's book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate life." That story tells in simple words what German pastor Martin Niemoeller taught us at the end of World War II:

In Germany they came first for the Communists, 
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. 

Then they came for the Jews, 
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. 

Then they came for the trade unionists, 
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. 

Then they came for the Catholics, 
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. 

Then they came for me, 
and by that time no one was left to speak up.  

Martin Niemoeller, German Lutheran Pastor

Step#4: Empathy -- The Moustrap

In session #4 (7 March) of our "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" book study being held at Oblate School of Theology we will be closing with this story, the mousetrap fable:

The Mousetrap

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall
to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

What food might this contain?” The mouse wondered -
he was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.
There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said,
“Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no
consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it.”

The mouse turned to the pig and told him,
“There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The pig sympathized, but said, “I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do
about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers.”

The mouse turned to the cow and said
“There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!”

The cow said, “Wow, Mr. Mouse. I’m sorry for you,
but it’s no skin off my nose.”

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected,
to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house —
like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was
caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had
caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned
home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup,
so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.

But his wife’s sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the
clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer’s wife did not get well; she died.
So many people came for her funeral; the farmer had the cow slaughtered
to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

Step #4: Empathy -- Barak Obama on "The Empathy Deficit"

"There’s a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit — the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us — the child who’s hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.

"As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There’s no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You’ll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what’s going on in your own little circle.

"Not only that — we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principal goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.

"They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they’re all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can’t learn and won’t learn and so we should just give up on them entirely.  That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else’s problem to take care of.

"I hope you don’t listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern. Not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate, although you do have that obligation. Not because you have a debt to all of those who helped you get to where you are, although you do have that debt.

"It’s because you have an obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. And because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you will realize your true potential — and become full-grown."

From a commencement speech at Northwestern University, 2006

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Step #3: Compassion for Self -- Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye

In the third step of our book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" (28 February) we considered compassion to one's self, and Rosalyn closed the session with this poem by San Antonio poet Naomi Shihab Nye.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
     purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihab Nye
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Compassion Mindfulness practice: CDEFGHIJKL

Dr. James R. Doty, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at Stanford University shares a morning mindfulness practice he does to be a more compassionate person. Every morning, he says, he goes through the acronym 'CDEFGHIJKL' to remind himself to be mindful. Compassion|Dignity|Equanimity|Forgiveness|Gratitude|Humility|Integrity|Justice|Kindness|Love

Monday, March 4, 2013

Step #4: Empathy -- Jeremy Rifkin Talk

In session four of the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" that we hare facilitating at Oblate School of Theology (March 7) we will be discussing EMPATHY. This illustrated talk by Jeremy Rifkin explains some of the neuroscience:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Golden Rule in Practice - in El Paso

Sportsmanship Gives Texas High Schooler Shot At Glory
A heart-warming story of the Golden Rule put into practice.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Step #3: Compassion for Self - Three-In-One Brain

During our book discussion on February 28th of Step #3 -- compassion for self -- Karen will talk about the "Three-In-One Brain," also called the triune brain. For those of you of a scientific bent, here is a short video explaining the concept:


And here's another one:

Step #3: Compassion for Self - Compassion Fatigue resources

At the third session of the book study of Karen Armstrong's "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life" that we are facilitating at Oblate School of Theology we will be discussing compassion for self (February 28th.)

As we have been traveling throughout the city one question that always seems to arise is about compassion fatigue. What is it? There are actually two definitions:

(1) Compassion fatigue is defined in the popular media as a feeling of being overwhelmed, helpless and numbed by media stories of tragedy. A New York Times article explains:
 "Fatigue often results “when you’re seeing the same problems repeatedly, when they’re chronic, and when the outcomes are not good,” said Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist and co-author of “Wheels Down: Adjusting to Life After Deployment.” “One sign that you’re there is that you start hoping your appointments cancel.”

"The public has a similar reaction to mass joblessness and starving countries alike: the problems sap the imagination in part simply because they are daunting and have not responded well to previous efforts. We have already pumped billions into each, with little visible effect. If only they would cancel their next emergency. " (read the whole article here.)
(2) In the academic literature, compassion fatigue is a synonym for vicarious trauma and is experienced by those in helping/caregiver positions. Kirsti A. Dyer MD, defines it as:
    "A state experienced by those helping people in distress; it is an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it is traumatizing for the helper; a deep physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion accompanied by acute emotional pain."
Here is a handout, in PDF format, that is used by Haven for Hope. It includes an assessment quiz, definitions, a list of symptoms and recommendations for action.