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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

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Photo: Monica LeRossignol
After a devastating wildfire, Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, gave $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees. He is pictured here with student Trevor
LeRossignol.

Compassionate people pop up everywhere. I try to keep my attention focused on that as much as possible. In this example, a wealthy developer was moved to put money behind his compassion after the devastation of the 2018 wildfires in Paradise, California.

In November, Brianna Sacks wrote at BuzzFeed News, “Monica LeRossignol and her son are still stunned by the freshly printed $1,000 check, a gesture that’s brightened the difficult, surreal reality of rebuilding their lives after losing their home and most of their community in Paradise, California.

“On Tuesday night, her 17-year-old son, Trevor LeRossignol, and hundreds of other students, parents, and faculty members from Paradise High School gathered at Chico High School, as they have every week since the Camp fire leveled their town, to catch up, give hugs, rifle through donations, and eat some warm food. But this gathering had a major bonus.

“Bob Wilson, a Southern California real estate developer, was there giving out $1,000 to each of Paradise High School’s 982 students and 105 employees, totaling about $1.1 million in donations.

” ‘I gave him a hug,’ LeRossignol said. … Like thousands of others, the 46-year-old lost everything in the catastrophic wildfire, which has killed 88 people, torched more than 153,000 acres, and destroyed 14,000 homes. The mother, her son, fiancé, two nephews, and six other family members fled for their lives and are now crammed into two bedrooms at a friend’s house in the nearby city of Chico. …

“A few weeks earlier, as the Camp fire continued to burn around Paradise, Wilson came across a story in the Los Angeles Times about the students of Paradise, most of whom lost their homes. It delved into the uncertainty facing Paradise Unified School District and its class of seniors who were readying to graduate.

“The 89-year-old told BuzzFeed News that Paradise High School’s plight stuck with him, reminding him of his own ‘carefree’ days as a teenager. …

‘I made up my mind in five minutes,’ the businessman said Wednesday morning from Chico. ‘I had some of the most profound experiences in my life in high school because I was still able to be a kid, and it broke my heart to think of the experiences these kids were missing.’ …

“About two weeks later, Wilson was flitting between about 10 tables set up inside Chico High’s hallways, handing out envelopes containing a letter and personal check addressed to each student, teacher, and custodian, which he had personally stuffed from one of his offices in Los Angeles. …

” ‘It was a really unique, cool way to give,’ [Paradise High Principal Loren] Lighthall said of Wilson’s donation. ‘It’s been rough, especially for high schoolers who need their friends and there’s no way to get together.’ …

“Two days after the fire tore through their close-knit, rural California town, Lighthall, who has been principal for two years, started a GoFundMe for Paradise High, a ‘high-poverty”‘ school where 67% of students qualified for free lunch last year. Almost every one of the nearly 1,000 students lost their home and ‘everything they own,’ he said. …

“For now, Lighthall explained that their main goal is getting the kids their credits however they can. More at BuzzFeed, here.

By the way, it’s sad that BuzzFeed and other news outlets have had to lay off so many reporters lately, people who come up with good local stories like this one. The news model is changing nationwide and we need to pay for journalism in new ways. My husband and I pay to read the Boston Globe online, the New York Times, and the Guardian. I also have a membership in the investigative news site Talking Points Memo. Online ads are not enough to keep these vital services going.

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gonzalez_walkingii

Photos: A Ride Home
When you get out of prison, you’re often on your own. That’s where A Ride Home comes in.

The other day, I was reiterating for a couple grandchildren the basics of the Christmas story. When you get down to essentials, the life of the grownup Baby Jesus, as told to us, was all about teaching kindness and going among the poor and outcast to comfort them.

I told the kids that “when Herod the King heard [about a new ‘Governor’], he was troubled” because he didn’t know the baby would not grow up to be the kind of leader that would take Herod’s throne and soldiers and money but instead would teach people about being good to one another.

Although we aren’t regular churchgoers, the kids like the annual Christmas pageant, and I wanted to go over the setting and roles a bit.

That’s a long intro to saying that Christmas is a particularly good time to consider how much the poor and outcast — and those who provide compassion to them — can benefit when we adhere to what is really the essence of all religions.

I recently learned about a great example of compassion for the outcast — a program for ex-offenders called “A Ride Home.” WNYC radio interviewed the people behind it.

“People released from prisons face all kinds of barriers as they transition back into the outside world, whether it’s finding jobs or housing.

“But beyond these large challenges, there are all kinds of small things the formerly incarcerated have to re-learn on the outside world — from opening doors, ordering from a menu, to choosing what kind of shampoo to buy.

“The Ride Home program helps people with those first few hours when they get out of prisons in California. …

“Carlos Cervantes is one of the program’s drivers, who is formerly incarcerated, and now picks people up, takes them for coffee and food, buys them new clothes and is with them in those first moments. He remembers the moments leading up to his own release back in 2011.

” ‘You feel nervous, asking, “What’s on the other side? How does the other side look like.” For me having spent 10 years 8 months, it’s kind of like this picture that like you can only imagine,’ he said.”

You can listen to WNYC’s podcast about the compassionate program via iTunesTuneInStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

What I especially like is that former offenders want to help out by volunteering with the program. A Ride Home can make a person’s first post-prison emotion one of gratitude. And we all know what good things a feeling of gratitude can work in the world.

More at WNYC, here. Check out some really nice photos at the Ride Home website, here.

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Photo: White Wolf Pack
A plaque acknowledging the contribution of the Choctaw people to the one million Irish people starving during Black ’47 is mounted in Dublin’s Mansion House and reads, “Their humanity calls us to remember the millions of human beings throughout our world today who die of hunger and hunger-related illness in a world of plenty.”

This is a story of compassion reaching across borders and cultures. Apparently, a Native American tribe, moved by the desperation of the Irish famine in the 19th century, donated money to help the hungry.

And Ireland did not forget.

According to the website White Wolf Pack, “In 2015, a statue was commissioned to be built in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland, to honor the kindness of the Choctaws. But the story begins in 1831, when the Choctaw people were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in Mississippi.

“A few years later, Choctaws learned of people starving in Ireland. Only sixteen years had passed since the Choctaws had faced hunger and death on the first Trail of Tears and a great empathy was felt when they heard such a similar tale coming from across the ocean. Individual Choctaws collected and donated $170 in 1847 to assist the Irish people.

“Jump ahead a century and a half. It took a year for artist Alex Pentek to create Kindred Spirits. With its nine eagle feathers reaching 20 feet into the air, the statue represents ‘this great moment of compassion, strength, and unity,’ said Pentek. …

“This is not the first time that the Choctaw nation has been honored in Ireland. In 1990, Choctaw leaders traveled to County Mayo to take part in a reenactment of the desperate walk undertaken by locals to their landlord in 1848. The gesture was returned in 1992, when Irish commemoration leaders took part in a 500 mile trek from Oklahoma to Mississippi. Former Irish President Mary Robinson has also been named an honorary Choctaw chief.”

More here and at Wikipedia, here.

I keep thinking that if ordinary folks like those Choctaws — and the Irish who remained grateful — would keep doing what they do in ever increasing numbers, the combined strength of multiple acts of empathy would erode the wrongdoing of the powerful.

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Despite its size, the compassionate Netherlands has welcomed a large number of refugees during the largest migration since World War II, perhaps remembering the terrified families that fled Hitler.

To house all the newcomers is naturally a challenge, but a design competition has yielded creative ideas.

Jon Comulada writes at Upworthy, “As the worldwide refugee crisis continues, innovative solutions are needed so that the people fleeing civil war and sectarian violence have a safe place to live. …

“In January 2016, the Netherlands launched a design competition called ‘A Home Away From Home’ in which entrants were tasked with designing temporary housing for refugees and disaster victims. All of the winning designs rethought the idea of public housing, adding amenities and innovations to make the buildings more like fully functioning homes than simply a bed to sleep on.

“The winners of the contest recently appeared on display in Amsterdam as part of Dutch Design Week and included things like solar power, water purification systems, and ingenious use of space and material.

“The cube design of the Farmland [below] means dozens can be stacked, placed together, and moved easily. The architects of this design imagined the miniature villages establishing a ‘DIY economy’ with local towns. …

“Home is a concept many of us take for granted, but it’s not a small thing. It makes us feel safe, comfortable, and human.

“The current refugee crisis hasn’t showed signs of slowing down, and with climate change creating more and more dangerous weather systems, we’re likely to see climate refugee numbers grow sharply. All of those people are going to need places to live. Innovative solutions like these help them to not only live, but live with dignity and opportunity.”

Check out several other designs from the competition at Upworthy, here.

Photo: A Home Away From Home
This Farmyard shelter is designed to transform vacant farmland into mini villages.

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Gotta love MIT. There is always something crazy going on over there. And when MIT and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) ideas come together, watch out.

At WBUR radio, Fred Thys explains about a new, multidiscipline design program.

Matt “Kressy has put MIT’s first-ever integrated design and management (IDM) students in a kind of boot camp. He wanted to immerse the engineers, designers and business school students in a project where they would have to work in concert. …

“The task: build instruments from found materials. And boy did the students find materials. Mechanical engineer Maria Tafur, from Bogota, made a clarinet from a carrot. Engineer Tammy Shen, from Taipei, has made an instrument that includes glass bottles. …

“Kressy was teaching a course at the Rhode Island School of Design when he got the idea for the new IDM master’s program. He was also teaching engineers and business students at MIT — but it was the design students from RISD that caught Kressy’s attention by asking a critical question:

‘How does this product enhance our lives?’ …

“Kressy says it took 13 years for his idea for a design program to get traction at MIT. When it did, he was able to pick 18 students with completely different criteria from what MIT typically uses.

“ ‘And that rubric had crazy metrics, such as the metric love,’ Kressy says. ‘And the love metric was basically: Does this candidate have a large capacity for love and compassion? …

“ ‘When I showed the rubric to my colleagues here, let’s just say it got mixed responses,’ he says, laughing.”

To get at the love-and-compassion metric, he asked applicants to submit a portfolio indicating their efforts to make the world a better place.

You can read here about the impressive portfolios, struggles to get to MIT from poor countries, and inventive ideas for the future.”

Photo: Jesse Costa/WBUR
MIT integrated design graduate students Maria Tafur and Masakazu Nagata play their homemade instruments along with Brave Sharab, 7, on Main Street in Cambridge.

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Swedish friends of ours have a home on the Greek island of Samos, where boatloads of refugees are landing every day. The family is collecting donations, buying bread, water bottles, diapers, and such, and delivering them to exhausted but grateful families. I will paste here the Facebook translation of the Swedish post, which may not be quite accurate, but you get the picture.

My Mom wrote yesterday:
It has blown hard in the last few days. Looking from the terrace, you can see the coast guard boat coming with inflatable boats on a trailer full of refugees. In the night 200 came, many families with children. Got together with J– and shared out approximately 100 bagettes without meat (Bedun Lachum) but with potatoes, eggs and mayonnaise, croissants, biscuits — also gave out diapers and wipes. The kids have priority always. The next delivery is 50 packages of diapers and 120 packages biscuits. Another 2000 Bottles of water were ordered.”

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Do you remember the British comedy group “Beyond the Fringe”? We love the LP record in our house.

I was thinking about a Peter Cook “Beyond the Fringe” sketch today because I have been reading tweets in Latin and my husband and I always joke about the English miner in Cook’s “Sitting on the Bench” routine who was wistful about not becoming a judge.

“I could have been a judge, but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judgin’.”

The Latin tweets I’ve been following are from Pope Francis, who is said to have gathered a large following who just like Latin. I am not a Catholic, but a lot of what the new Pope has said impresses me, especially his cautions against materialism and his concern for those who suffer. I also like exercising the rusty hinges in my brain where fuzzy memories of Latin are stored. And if I don’t quite get the whole tweet, Google Translate is available — and turns out to be much better at Latin than, say, Swedish or Arabic.

I retweeted this missive:

Papa Franciscus ‏@Pontifex_ln 22 Jun
Si sensum vitae in Iesu invenimus, eos negligere non possumus qui patiuntur quique sunt tristes.

Google Translate: If we find the meaning of life in Jesus, we can not ignore those who suffer and those who are sad.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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