In 1997 I attended my 20th high school reunion. It was great to see everyone, especially since many who could not attend the 10th, arrived with great joy to the 20th. I’ll never forget the reception and cocktail party. We were glad to see each other, and poignantly, we were glad to see each other alive as we had already lost class members to illness and tragedy.
What took me by surprise is how many people remembered my mother. The rapid-sequence introduction went something like this, “Hi Lisa!!! It’s so good to see you! Where are you now? And how is your mother? I just LOOOVED your mother! She was such a great teacher. I just LOVED your mother. If it wasn’t for her…..”. “She was sooo good to me. I learned how to….” And “did I say how much I LOVED your mother?” And then the reunion friend would go off on a highly detailed discourse of my mother teaching them out to sew a dress, bake a cake, manage a budget, encourage them to go to college and just downright try. Don’t give up and certainly don’t just sit and not make an attempt. I learned even more how much my mother helped her students better themselves, challenge life and rise above. As are many teachers and mothers, she was an encourager and a connector. My mother had made a lasting impression.
In this day and age, we are becoming more aware of our environmental lasting impression – our carbon footprint. We can actually go on line and calculate our very own carbon footprint and instantly understand the amount of greenhouse gases produced in our daily lives through burning fossil fuels for electricity, heating, meals, and transportation etc.
We make an impact on the world by what we use in regards to fossil fuels, in what we use and waste. We also make an impact when we connect with others, what we use and waste. And we make a lasting impression – a compassion footprint.
What are the components of our compassion footprint? What is our awareness of creating compassionate interactions in our daily lives? Can we calculate our compassion impact for a day? If so, how do we calculate this impact? We may not always know the suffering of others. Assuming the human condition includes some element of suffering, today, have we created a meaningful, compassionate connection with:
- A family member
- Our spouse who forgot to take out the garbage – again
- The repair man who is 15 minutes late
- The telemarketer who forgot to take us off the “don’t call” list
- Difficult clients
- The new checker in training at the grocery store
- Patients and their family members
- A colleague experiencing an ill or dying family member
- Our boss
Self-awareness is the first step in creating compassionate connections. For one day, on a small slip of paper in your wallet, on your Blackberry task list, write down each time you thought a compassionate thought and each time you said or acted in a compassionate manner.
At the end of the day:
How often did you feel compassionate?
How often did you reach out?
What happened – what was the result?
How did it make you feel?
Was compassion your first response or did you have to “think through” to compassion?
Does there seem to be a barrier?
If so, what seem to be barriers preventing compassionate actions?