Ask a person what “compassion” is, and you might get an answer about love – compassion is about loving someone. That’s certainly true, but compassion goes a bit deeper. If you look up the meaning of “compassion” in a dictionary it doesn’t say a lot about love: “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.”
Notice the last part: a strong desire to alleviate suffering; in other words, to help. Compassion isn’t just about feeling, it’s about doing. And it’s not just about the people around you, it extends to other people – and even other non-people.
To anyone wondering, “but what can I do?” Oakmont Martial Arts has some great examples of compassion at work in their communities. And these aren’t adults — they’re kids.
Tiny Tiger green belt Claire Conti loves animals. “Our animals, (1 dog, 2 cats) are from the Animal Rescue League,” said Claire’s mom, Cassie. Because of that, Claire wanted to be a volunteer, but she was told she was too young. Undaunted, Claire wanted to find another way to help. “I have friends who volunteer there, so we knew we could get answers quickly,” said Cassie.
Claire’s first foray into helping took the form of dontations. Armed with a wish list, Claire asked people for goods to donate to the shelter – and people responded. For Claire, it was a dream come true. “When we brought our car full of goods, Claire was beside herself with all the people who came out to help haul the goods in. So was so glad to help the animals.”
And it didn’t stop there. For the past two years, Claire has sponsored “spin-a-thons” to benefit the Animal Rescue League and ran in this year’s Pittsburgh Marathon kids’ event (as Wonder Woman) to raise money. She hand-made over 200 thank-you cards for online donors.
The result? Over $7,000 in goods and money over two years for the Animal Rescue League and she was recognized by The Tribune-Review as a “young achiver.”
And Claire isn’t stopping there. She’ll be making “pupsicles” for the shelter dogs this week – and don’t be surprised if there’s another spin-a-thon in the future!
Purple belt Griffin Kerstetter was recently selected as a Most Outstanding Volunteer for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service program. Griffin and her friend Annie started the Home Lost Project. Home Lost turns discarded T-shirts into blankets for the homeless. Griffin collected bags upon bags of discarded T-shirts – everything from those donated by families to factory rejects – and then organized volunteer sewing events to turn the T-shirts into quilts. Those quilts will go to people who are experiencing housing crises, spreading both physical and emotional warmth to those in need.
Griffin participated in the project with her best friend, and will go on to represent Western Pennsylvania in the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, DC.
What kid doesn’t love biking in the summer? But for some kids, a bike is just a dream, something outside the financial reach of the family.
Enter white belt Kadence Simko. Enlisting the help of her father, and the United Steelworkers Union, she collected 75 bikes, as well as a handful of scooters and skateboards for donation to the Red Lantern Bike Shop, a free store in Braddock. Along with the bikes, Kadence collected helmets, pads, bike parts, and tools.
“We helped the free store another time with clothes and we knew that they had a bike shop,” said Kadence’s dad, Mar. “We just thought what kid should have a bike for the summer?”
Claire, Griffin, and Kadence exemplify compassion in action. They all saw a need and worked with parents and other adults to do something about it. In the process, they made the lives of other people better – and they made themselves feel good too. Because that’s how compassion works. We feel better when we help others feel better.
So the next time you think, “Well, I’d like to help, but I’m too young” or you wonder just what good you can do anyway, think about these three young ladies. Then look around. You’ll probably be amazed at the opportunities for compassion all around you.
A software technical writer by day, Mary Sutton is the mother of two teens and has been making her living with words for over ten years. She is the author of the Hero’s Sword middle-grade fantasy series, writing as M.E. Sutton, and The Laurel Highlands Mysteries police-procedural series, writing as Liz Milliron. Visit her online at www.marysuttonauthor.com.