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Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 01:56 am

Resolutions for a compassionate Springfield

With annum’s end here again, it’s time to bring out paper and pen – iPod or -Pad? – to begin another list of good intentions for the new year. For me it’s a challenge to make it past the first days or weeks of January with resolutions intact.

Most of us are stretched with our individual commitments, but wouldn’t it be great if this year’s list included ways to strengthen our communities as well? Heaven knows we need all the help we can get: the economy continues to severely disappoint us; thousands are out of work or underemployed; and war continues. Despite the declaration of the “end” of the Iraq war, the billions being poured into that beleaguered country from our dwindling federal budget indicate otherwise.

What about something different for 2012? It couldn’t hurt to try something new, particularly since what’s old doesn’t seem to be working well. Instead of a long list on Jan. 1, what about a change in perspective towards our families, workplaces, community, city, nation and world? What if we really tried this year to begin with ourselves? To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, we can change the world as we become the change we wish to see in the world.

How about altering our perspectives to see that forgiveness begins with ourselves, whether by saying we’re sorry or to forgive without waiting for the right time or the other person’s initiative? Or being intentional about putting ourselves in another person’s shoes, imagining how s/he feels and taking the time and presence to behave in a way we’d wish others to treat us? We say we want to be good models for our children. What better way than to act counter-culturally by caring for our neighbors, not only those who are geographically close and similar to us, but also those who are different in skin color, language, customs, sexual preference, faith expression, politics, able-ness, etc.

For support in keeping your commitment to these compassionate actions, try one of Springfield’s best-kept secrets: since Sept. 11, 2011, the Prairieland Compassion Network (www.prairiecompassion.org) has been promoting the Greater Springfield Year of Compassion, with one of its goals being the creation of Springfield as a Compassionate City. Currently there are seven Compassionate Cities in North America, (with more than 40 candidates), an offshoot program of the Charter for Compassion initiated by Karen Armstrong (www.charterforcompassion.org).

This is not to say that compassion isn’t a regular occurrence in Springfield. We know there are many individuals, groups, faith communities and organizations routinely working for the common good. Yet to counteract the violence, disrespect and disunity which seems to be on the rise and is perpetuated by the media, an exponential increase in our efforts is needed to give civility a chance, especially in this election year.

Continuing throughout the year, several of the 20-plus groups and faith communities in the Network will hold events that elevate compassion in our community. Frontiers International’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast is collaborating with PCN as a Year of Compassion event. Habitat for Humanity will invite volunteers to their Youth Build work days and dedication in February. Through the auspices of Pax Christi Springfield, longtime peace activist Kathy Kelly will return to share her experiences in Kabul with the remarkable young people of Afghan Youth for Peace. Lincoln Library will feature several community-wide events. The Grassroots Interfaith Team will be cosponsoring film/discussion nights with other local faith communities and institutions like St. John’s Hospital and SIU School of Medicine.

So many good people in Springfield. So many opportunities to work together for the common good. An admirable resolution. Care to join in?

Diane Lopez Hughes of Springfield is Pax Christi Springfield representative with the Prairieland Compassion Network, chair of the Coalition to Promote Human Dignity and Diversity, and a traveler on the long journey towards peace and justice through nonviolence.
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