Because compassion can change the world (in time for Valentine’s Day)

Photo credit: Bhumika Bhatia via Creative Commons

Photo credit: Bhumika Bhatia via Creative Commons

In my work with social justice advocates across the world, I’ve noticed that those who are most passionate and committed approach challenges with a heart of compassion.  Which is why I loved writing about Maggie Doyne for Huffington Post this week.

Maggie is a 27-year-old woman from NJ who first set off to see the world after graduating from high school.  She arrived in Nepal just as the country’s civil war was ending.

After trekking for three days into a remote Himalayan village, Maggie came face to face with an orphaned child who was working as a porter, carrying over 150 pounds of weight on her back.

Here’s what she said about the moment she knew she had to take a stand:

“We locked eyes, and at that moment I felt that she was me and that we were the same exact person. It was surreal. I remember myself at her age, on the soccer field, going to my first dance and studying for my tests. But this was her reality. The stark contrast of the difference of our lives — yet being like the same person — it really hit me then that I had to do something.”

That’s what compassion truly is.  Not just empathy (the ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another), but taking those feelings and adding in a strong desire to help.  I like how mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg explains it:

Compassion is the trembling of our hearts in response to seeing pain or suffering. Compassion itself is considered to have a kind of energy, a sense of sufficiency to it. It is the act of connecting to something bigger than us, a sort of lifting up of our spirits, even if we are dealing with our own very difficult pain.

Today Maggie is the legal guardian to forty-four orphans and runs the country’s only school with a no corporeal punishment policy.  You can read more about her and other change makers in my piece here.

Since we’re talking about compassion and it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d send you a little treat:  the Compassionate Love Quiz.  Compassion is linked to pleasure, happiness, resilience and many other good things.

It turns out that what’s good for the world is also good for ourselves.

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