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The Compassionate City Project: Compassion can start with simple acts – Jessica Potts

The Compassionate City Project: Compassion can start with simple acts – Jessica Potts

The Compassionate City Project: Compassion can start with simple acts – Jessica Potts


The Compassionate City Project: Compassion can start with simple acts

Compassion is like a yellow Volkswagen – once it’s on your radar, you see it all over the place.

#CompassionateSTC was designed to cast a spotlight on creating a culture of compassion through everyday interactions, deeds, and“gifts of time, talent, or treasure”as Tim Arnold says.

You may have heard of Tim. He’s big on leadership and compassion and diversity and inclusion, and he has the ear of many leaders in the city. In partnership with theMayor, Tim has embarked on a broad social movement addressing poverty, homelessness, and other issues that put people in the margins of society.

In preparation for the project, Tim took us on a bus tour to places where some of the city’s most marginalized people spend time. He warned our group that compassion is a choice and it’s not always a comfortable choice. If we aren’t sleeping under a bridge, we have privilege and we should stand up to that privilege.

The weekend tapped into my own vulnerability in sharing my past experiences. Having been raised by a single mom, I haven’t always had privilege. I’ve worked hard and have spent a lot of time gratefully reflecting on the support systems that got us through the tougher times.

Sunday, I needed my modern day support systems a lot – in this case, the campaign team of young women who dedicated their weekends to my project.

And it was that bridge Tim spoke of that brought me to my second emotional breaking point.

A community member stepped forward to donate blankets and we decided to take them to a bridge just outside of downtown where many local people spend their nights.

I was scared. I was emotional. I was raw. And I feared what I didn’t know. It was important for me to embrace that fear as part of my own experience and personal growth.

And so we went to the bridge. We saw a fire pit, a sitting area, a rubber tourniquet and a syringe, but no one was there except us and our well-intentioned care packages.

I wondered where they had gone. I wondered how they spent their time in the day. I wondered if time was an enemy when you feel lost and alone.

I thought about what Tim had said about the importance of having a support network. Someone living in the margins may have access to services they need, but the likelihood of them having the confidence and support needed to navigate the long and winding road ahead of themselves is next to impossible.

But if that person has one or two people in his or her corner – unpaid, non-expert friends who are choosing compassion and standing beside that person in friendship – the chances of the person moving forward is very, very high.

It makes sense. The yellow Volkswagen I keep seeing is support. It’s inclusivity. It’s belonging. And it starts with the simplest acts. Hold a door, hold a hand, hold your temper. You never know when you will have a chance to be someone’s support system.

Niagara thisWeek is proud to support the Compassionate City Project with this first of a monthly series reflecting on the experience of one of the project ambassadors. For more on the Compassionate City initiative, visit www.compassionatestc.ca.