Looking around our world today and its state of affairs, compassion for one another seems to be absent. At least, it seems so on the surface. But what does it really mean to show compassion? Compassion is the feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another, particularly if they have experienced a hardship or misfortune, and includes the desire to help alleviate that circumstance. So, compassion is not just a feeling or emotion, but includes the instinct to take action, to help, to console, to comfort.
Why do we fail to show compassion? Perhaps it’s because showing compassion requires us to put ourselves out there, to show vulnerability, to feel, to sacrifice something. Sadly, the side effect of shutting ourselves off from our fellow human beings is a sad, ugly world.
My faith requires me to be compassionate, to learn more about compassion and how to show it to others. The greatest example to me of compassion is Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan. Through this example we learn that when we see someone suffering we are to recognize that one, the person is suffering and two, we are to help alleviate their suffering. We are to help our neighbor. And who is our neighbor—everyone. Our fellow human beings. Not just our own family, not just our own countrymen, not just those like us—but everyone. Because we are all part of the human family. In other words, we are to treat others the way we would want to be treated.
We can reach beyond our efforts of individual compassion. As a society, we can practice collective compassion. We can support programs in our communities that lift up others who are experiencing difficult life situations, whether those situations be temporary or perennial. At the state and federal level, we can support policies and statutes that reflect the value of compassion. We can advocate for programs and services that meet the needs of the most vulnerable—those who are unable to advocate for themselves.
The most important place to start, however, is right in our own heart. Mother Teresa reminds us that, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The next time someone cuts us off in traffic, we can offer them a little grace and not yell ugly words at them. The next time we see someone without a basic need, we can offer what we have. When we know someone is elderly and lives alone, we can take them a meal. There are so many places to start and so many needs to meet. Maybe, if we all just practiced one act of compassion each day, the world could become a kinder, more compassionate place.
This week's blog writer is Sabra Tucker. Sabra Tucker is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association, representing the interests of over 62,000 retired teachers, support professionals, and school administrators. She has been with the association just under two years. Prior to serving at OREA, she spent a number of years in education as a National Board Certified teacher, curriculum director, and school administrator. She has experience in all levels of education from early childhood to college. She also has worked in state government at the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the Oklahoma Office of Personnel Management. With degrees in both education and business, she now focuses on the public policy that affects education professionals, retirement issues, and public pensions. She specializes in assisting retirees and in protecting the benefits they have earned as school professionals. She and her husband of 31 years, Mike, a retired air force officer, live in Shawnee. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.
To be grateful when the world feels hateful.
Ah yes, to be grateful... we hear it all of the time, don’t we? Be thankful, they say, be positive. The glass is half full, now drink up and don’t complain! But, what does it look like to be actively grateful? Is there special formula? And if so, can it make me happier, more content, and less impatient while waiting in any kind of line?!
The truth is, gratefulness comes in every shape and size. You can be grateful that you caught the bus, made the team, or aced the test. You can also be grateful that your mother’s cancer is in remission, or that you didn’t lose your job during the pandemic. It may seem boorish to value the former as much as the latter, but in my opinion, both are equally important. There is an extreme power in being mindfully thankful— for everything. This simple yet courageous act can absolutely change your life and that of those around you.
There are a plethora of studies that reiterate this fact to me, and yet I still forget the power of gratitude. I heard an interesting study about the neurological implications of practicing gratefulness on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast (which is amazing and you should totally check it out). Shawn Achor, a Harvard graduate and happiness research expert, conducted a study where his team took “high level pessimists” from the ages of 10-80 years and made them think for 2 minutes about 3 things they are grateful for in life. They continued this practice for 21 days. After just a few short weeks, these super sad folks turned into some “low level optimists!” Basically, they reported happier outlooks towards themselves, their relationships, and their livelihoods. In addition, they found that by slowing down the brain and focusing on the present, the subjects experienced lower levels of stress and higher levels of focus. Interestingly, those around the subjects also experienced lower levels of stress. This indicated that contentment, gratitude, and happiness are somewhat contagious. Now, I’m no scientist, but anything that can turn a “get off my lawn” grandpa into a “get off my lawn, but have a nice day” grandpa sounds effective to me.
So, you’re saying that you can take a mere 2 minutes out of your day to be grateful and reap all of these wonderful benefits? Seems like a no brainer on paper... But at times, this simple act proves to be more difficult than we imagine.
It is hard to appreciate and accept our lives for what they are right now- at this very moment. Messy, crazy, uncomfortable, anxious, angry, gassy, pissy, and all. But, it is looking at the mess and choosing to create a kinder path amid the storm. This path may not have all of the answers or prevent any suffering, but it has far more flowers and sunsets along the way. It is a path paved with stones made from the gravel of our guts that we’ve spilled out in times of pain. We work with these painful moments. We scream, cry, and cuss. We reflect, nurture, and heal. And it is through thankfulness, that we are able see the value of our mistakes, accept the broken pieces, and truly grow. We turn those pieces of gravel into something useful- a lesson to inform our journey. By being gracious in a world that thrives on discontentment, we take our power back. We are able to recognize our humanity and grow in humility. It is only then that we are able to feel more warmth, inspiration, and love as we pave our winding paths of life.
Along my journey, I’ve found that human suffering is inevitable. It is the dichotomy of good and evil- the yin and the yang. You cannot recognize the face of one without staring directly into the eyes of the other. That is part of trying to be a wholesome individual— knowing both pain and sorrow and choosing goodness anyway. It is through the acknowledgement of our brokenness, that we will be able to cultivate a different consciousness. A consciousness that values human life. Our priorities will change from getting a promotion to healing the sick, lifting the marginalized, and recognizing one another in a deeper way. Radical change starts by looking at ourselves and taking action— big or small. During these heartbreaking and unprecedented times, we need this skill now more than ever.
I encourage you to sit down 4 times a week and think for two full minutes about everything you are thankful for. The shoes on your feet, the food in your belly, the hair or absence of hair on your head, the relatives you have that are still alive, the house you’ve made a home, the car you drive, the smile you exchanged with a stranger, the laugh you shared with a co-worker, and the fact that an asteroid hasn’t destroyed us all... think of everything you can!! Another popular gratitude practice is to keep a journal of thankfulness. This works for some, but for me it feels like a chore. Thinking and reflecting is much easier and more tangible for my life... ha-ha, I’m lazy. But hey, I’m thankful for these lazy bones!
Overall, gratitude is the golden ticket to the chocolate factory. It brings you to a place where you feel happy and proud of your journey. In that space, you are able to own your faults, shame, and guilt, and realize it’s those very moments of brokenness that made you who you are today. So, go, be grateful! Sing with the Oompa Loompas! And see how a tiny thought can bloom into a more beautiful reality.
This week's blog writer is Ellis Jones. She is from Shawnee, Oklahoma and recently graduated with a Psychology degree from Abilene Christian University. This fall she is headed to the University of Texas at Arlington to complete a master's of Industrial/Organizational Psychology.
Commitment…the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. Is commitment scary? Is commitment rewarding? In my opinion -- yes and yes!
What have you been committed to in your life? A marriage? A job? A long-range goal? A group of friends or your community? A sense of personal calling?
As I ponder my commitments over the years, my first thought goes to accepting my marriage proposal. The initial agreement to commit was easy for me because I loved him and was hoping to spend the rest of my life with him. We enjoyed each other’s company and had fun together. However, keeping this commitment—through all of life’s ups and downs—hasn’t been easy, but well worth it.
Another commitment I have made more than once was to train for an endurance race. This has included five marathons, two half-ironman races, one Olympic distance triathlon, and numerous half-marathons and sprint triathlons. The decision to participate was easy. One reason I made these race commitments was to spend fun training times with amazing friends, who provide a life filled with joy and fun. However, keeping this commitment was not always easy with many early 5am training runs and four- to five-hour Saturday trial races before the actual race. Do I feel these commitments were worth it? Yes, the feeling of accomplishment and finishing alongside friends provided many memorable moments.
As I was researching for this blog, I came across this quote by Maya Angelou, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Reading this reminded me that you can also commit to a specific way of living life. As I approach turning 50 years old in less than a month, I feel like this is a commitment I want to reexamine. How do I want to commit to live my next 50 years? Like Maya, I desire to focus on having more passion and compassion, laughing regularly, and doing so in the style of Jesus.
Committed to you,
This week's blog writer is Tonya Ricks, co-creator of Living52.
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."
--President John F. Kennedy
Trustworthiness is defined as “the ability to be relied on as honest or truthful.”
In this day, where there is so much chaos and concern around us, we need to seek and be able to find comfort in people and environments we trust. As the famous quote from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address states, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I am relating this quote to “trustworthiness” because we need to be able to have trust in our own communities and surroundings in order to have faith in our country, but also within ourselves and others.
Whether you find yourself to be comforted through the news outlets, social media, or rather by steering away from those mediums to find your comfort during these challenging times, that is your own prerogative. The world around us is changing daily, or more less hourly.
For you to have peace of mind and to overcome the uncertainty of what the future holds, find someone or something that is reliable, truthful, honest, open, and unbiased towards you, your beliefs, your faults, your strengths, and your weaknesses, but also be able to reciprocate that in the relationship. Find sources that will hold “trustworthiness” to them. It may not always be an easy task to let your guard down and let your complete self be shown--but once that happens, there will be a new greatness and feeling in your life. Once you know there is someone/something you can depend on to keep you safe, hold your secrets, talk out your fears and worries and to hold accountable, then you will know peace.
Trustworthiness is a vital characteristic for a human being to experience. So, going forward in the days to come I hope you are able to find someone or something that gives you the feeling of trust which then brings out more and more positive feelings for you and also those around you, which can then lead to a more positive impact in the community, the country, and the world! This is what we can do for our country, ourselves and all existence!
This week's blog writer is Kaily O'Connor. Born and bred in Shawnee, Oklahoma, she is a graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Communications. After graduation she worked for the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits, submerging herself into the not for profit world and seeing the impact that all of those great organizations around the state provide for others. In 2017 she moved to New York City in support of her long-time boyfriend who is currently in his 3rd year of Podiatry School. She currently is the Marketing & Sales Coordinator of the East Coast US for Valmont Cosmetics, a luxury Swiss skincare brand. Exercising her social skills as well as organizational skills implementing and executing in-store and off-site events, charitable partnerships and more.
SERVICE ~ It's a word you may have heard many times in your life. Here are ways I heard this from my parents throughout the years:
“You must service your car.”
“You shouldn’t yell at the customer service rep on the phone!”
“It’s important to serve others and volunteer your time.”
“Serving your country is the greatest service as an American.”
“Serving God should be a priority every single day.”
For me, this word takes on many meanings. Writing this blog has helped me consider these meanings and think about the true depth of service. While waiting on the phone for an hour to hear back from a customer service representative after being put on hold, my opinion of customer service isn't always great. If the definition of service is the action of helping or doing work for someone else, it makes you wonder if anyone in customer service jobs are really trained to embrace this concept let alone know what it means.
Two days ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a man named Patrick Riley. He knows about service! He is an older gentleman who has lived a full life. Not only is he a talented artist, but he has spent much of his life teaching art to children and yoga to prisoners. Listening to him, I recognized the beauty of service. I doubt, as humble as he is, that he would call it that but I felt at peace being in the calming presence of him (someone who has given his life to others). He said to me “When you're in touch with your Creator you know everything is as it should be.” In that moment, I realized his purpose of service was greater than himself. And wouldn’t be great if we all tried to live that way! Maybe I shouldn’t get so frustrated with the reps on the phone. Ha Ha!
Back to my earlier thought, I was raised to service my car on a regular basis or my dad would flip out. If my car was overdue for an oil change or my gas tank got too low, I would hear a lecture on how important it was to take care of your car! “That car costs too much for you not to be responsible enough to take care of it. If you can’t take care of the things we give you then you don't deserve to have them!” Hmmmmmm… That's a thought.
I assume that would also apply to serving God, serving country, and serving others. After recently talking with a close friend, I would also add serving ourselves to this list even though sometimes it feels like serving yourself is a selfish act. Many Americans take the vow of serving their country seriously through joining the armed services, becoming a public servant, or participating by voting. Many gifted people I know get up every day to serve others, whether it's in their job duties or in the time they give after work hours to volunteer in local non-profits or their church. Parents serve their children. Pastors serve their congregation. Nurses and firemen serve everyone in their communities. Soldiers and police serve even with the chance of dying during their service. With all of these amazing ways of service, the thought of serving or doing anything for yourself does sound selfish, but what about that car we talked about earlier? Maybe it's a happy balance? If I don’t serve myself at times, I can’t serve others at all. Just like a car won't drive your family, if you don't take care of it. The flight attendant does say to put your mask on first then your child’s mask, so maybe service to myself sometimes is necessary and not selfish at all.
I believe service can be one the greatest purposes of one’s life. In my opinion, a known reality is that we are here to do and give for others. Yet if you run out of all the steam you have, you can’t give it any more. I recently had a friend share with me his struggle with giving everything he had. Getting back on track and refueling needed to be a main priority. Sometimes, it is important as humans to serve your soul, serve your mind, and serve your body. Regroup, refill and refocus or you can't fulfill your purpose to serve others or God. We are given the freedom to serve, but also the knowledge of when to refuel ourselves so that our service will continue in the long-haul. Maybe we should be as responsible with our own well-being as we are with the service of our car. We are valuable too. Refuel and do maintenance, so that you can continue to be of SERVICE to others!
This week's blog writer is Julie Brittain, co-founder of LIVING52. Read more of Julie's story at www.living52words.com/stories.