Compassion Cultivated

Happy Wednesday!

I'm in New Haven, Connecticut with all the members of the Still Harbor team for our work in partnership with Global Health Corps (GHC). As part of the leadership curriculum Still Harbor designs and facilitates for GHC fellows, we've been diving into some challenging content around bearing witness to the pain and suffering of others and cultivating compassion in response.

Inspired by the reflections and dialogue that have unfolded as a result, I felt moved to share an article with you this week that encompasses similarly challenging themes:


A r t i c l e :  "My Family's Slave" by Alex Tizon

W h y   y o u   s h o u l d   r e a d   i t ?
Moving. Powerful. Complex. 

This story brought me to tears.
Tears of sadness. Tears of awe. Tears of compassion.

Some of what I learned: She was mad at [my] Mom for being so cruel all those years, but she nevertheless missed her. Sometimes, when Lola was young, she’d felt so lonely that all she could do was cry. ..Maybe her life would have been better if she’d stayed in Mayantoc, gotten married, and had a family like her siblings. But maybe it would have been worse.

Be ready to open your heart to the many dynamics of love and to awaken your spirit to pure resilience.  

W h e r e ' s   t h e   S p i r i t   i n   t h i s   a r t i c l e ?
While there is a lot to unpack in this story, I invite you to orient to how compassion is cultivated in response to the witness of suffering.

As a framework, I offer this definition:

compassion (n) - the quality and presence of loving witness to suffering, the desire to relieve that suffering, and the acceptance that it may persist.

It is challenging to find the space within ourselves that is whole and complete so that we may hold a space of compassion from which to bear witness to the pain and suffering of others. So difficult, in fact, that it might beg you to wonder whether the work is even worthwhile...

But the reality is - as demonstrated by this story - that by living out our spiritual process in response to another's suffering, we are able to immerse fully in our shared humanity and, from that space, are able to connect and love with depth and authenticity. 


If you have thoughts, reactions, or questions after reading this article, remember you are always welcome to share: lauren@stillharbor.org.