My journey with “compassion” began at the age of five when my family crumbled and my sisters and I became wards of the State of California. A snapshot stored in the corner of my mind: a woman clad in stockings with a line up the back, blue shoes, too tall for me to see her face; holding my hand– snap – and then my mother was gone.
Passed from one system facility to another—foster homes, children’s homes and fifteen different schools before the age of twelve. I began to experience the difference between people doing a job to serve a need and those who are doing their job with compassion. Beating the statistics, I was supported by amazing counseling sessions between the ages of 21 and 32, helping me to connect the dots of my crazy train childhood and understand the role compassion had played in my own life.
Compassion often is defined as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” In its highest form it is so much more. It is the teacher who took time to tell me how smart I was in the third grade, the high school office manager who campaigned to have me operate the switch board in the school office when I needed an elective in business, the woman who taught me so much in the personnel office of my first full time job. Compassion is an opportunity woven into our everyday activities, simple as they seem and life-affirming in ways we may never know.
Sharing my story has never been inspired by the need for “pity”, but, instead, by the recognition that personal stories have transformative power bringing us closer together as a human family. I became the director of Family Promise of Las Vegas in 2004. I felt so happy to be in a place where I could help families change their lives. But, I still recall the day in 2006, sitting at my desk and feeling tears on my cheeks—the epiphany of sorts that I was not ultimately placed in this job to help others bring about change in their lives…it was me that required change. I realized on that day the difference between doing a job…serving a need…and doing it with compassion.
We all know that Family Promise protocols and practices have compassion at our core. A reminder that compassion is not just a random word we use reflexively, but a philosophical stance we take in the way we work with our guests. A place for their stories to be gathered into our collective human experience, helping them to heal and “us” to change.