‘Compassion takes intention and a willingness to be challenged’

There is nothing more powerful than a sense of belonging. For many of us, Ridgefield is the place where we belong, whether we have lived here all our lives or recently arrived. Researcher and writer Brené Brown believes that belonging is an irreducible need; not to be taken for granted. The challenge is how do we nurture belonging for the care of both individuals and our community as a whole?

One key way is through the practice of compassion. Not for the faint of heart, compassion takes intention and a willingness to be challenged. As Karen Armstrong, founder of the global movement, says “The Charter for Compassion reminds us: A compassionate community is an uncomfortable community... Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.” This takes commitment.

Of course, to not care is even more costly. We end up seeing the world through the lens of our fears and prejudices. Daniel Goleman, in his research, has found that: “Self-absorption in all its forms kills… compassion… But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection or compassionate action.” Compassion and belonging: they go together.

We live in a season when belonging is difficult, indeed rare. The choice is ours: will we cultivate division or will we cultivate compassion?

Dr. Deborah Rundlett