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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Sep 13, 2014

JenniferFischerInspired by Mama Scout, I selected a guiding word for 2014. That word was compassion. As the year has gone on, I’ve seen how important compassion is and how appropriate the word feels for this year.

With the marking of another 9/11 anniversary, I circled back to this word and felt the weight of its value and the deep need for more compassion in our world. September, in general, is a month that often focuses me on compassion not only because of 9/11, but also because children head back to school and I’m reminded of the value of teaching children compassion and kindness to reduce bullying and to improve understanding and cooperation at school.

I also think of compassion as I engage with raising awareness about hunger and supporting organizations that work to end hunger during Hunger Action Month (September). As I discuss hunger with my sons and we collect canned goods to donate, I seek to do so from a place of compassion. I remind myself of the value of community and having an open heart in which I give more and seek ways to build up those around me, rather than tear down.

I think of compassion as I prepare for more Spotlight On Hope Film Camps for kids with cancer and engage in activities related to Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (also September), and I am reminded to extend gratitude to the healthcare workers, social workers, parents and others whose hearts are full of compassion for the children they serve.

jf_compassion1I think of compassion as friends and family members share reminders of the importance of kindness as they raise awareness about National Suicide Prevention Month (again, September), reminding me that even a smile and word of acknowledgment to a stranger can go a long way for a person struggling with depression; reminding me that taking the time to listen to friends and family members can be literally life changing.

All around me, all month, I see reminders of the value and importance of compassion. I see the need for more compassion – for each of us to see opportunities to reach out, to connect, to give, to spread love rather than to close off from each other, plug in but disconnect, take and hold tight to what we have, close our arms and hands in fear or hate.

I also circle back to this guiding word this month because I’ve had a birthday, which leads me to reflect. I look back and realize all of the moments that compassion made a difference in my life or in the life of a loved one, or when I see a moment when an act of kindness or an attitude of empathy and understanding would have made a difference – an opportunity lost.

I look back, too, and realize how various experiences in my life offer important lessons and realize that my path to this guiding word and to understanding the transformative power of compassion occurred years ago while running an after-school program in the Santa Clarita Valley. I found myself facing moments in which I wasn’t sure what to do, wasn’t sure what a child needed, wasn’t sure how to help.

In the end, I realized that if I didn’t have the answer – didn’t know how to help a student who carried around way too many burdens – I would always just give more love. I could be compassionate.

jf_compassion2I’ve seen realized that in general, when in doubt, the world can always use more love. I’m working hard to face the world with kindness and love at all times, even – no, especially – when it isn’t easy to do so. I’ve come to realize that the real challenge is to be kind and compassionate when others are not.

Responding any other way only fuels the fire, makes the burden heavier, intensifies the negativity. I cannot know what suffering, what pain or what challenging life circumstance another person is facing. I cannot know where their anger or disinterest or bitterness comes from, and it is unfair of me to judge.

I’ve come to realize that responding with love – even in the face of hate – offers the possibility of a shift. Even if I don’t see the shift, I will know a seed has been planted. I will know I didn’t stir the pot and increase the fear or hate or anger; but rather, I brought forth positivity, understanding and love.

It isn’t always easy, but it is always important. So I continue to embrace this year’s guiding word and hope others will choose kindness, empathy, love, understanding and compassion, too.

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

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