The Compassion Games – Survival of the Kindest

I’m copying here a newsletter I was emailed. I can’t find the link to it so I thought I would just copy it in it’s entirety for you.  Have a look at the inspiring and exciting Compassion Games website and read all about it – I was SO inspired, it gives me hope in these dark times. What can we do? It’s challenging me to think about how compassionate can I be each day; what random act of kindness can I show  today? What about you? Do leave a comment below.

Special Newsletter: The Compassion Games

by Sande Hart and John Ramer

No other initiative has struck a nerve, inspired the uninspired, raised the eyebrow of the skeptic, or got the attention of the weary and the tired as the Compassion movement.  And no other idea to mobilize people into a new way of being compassionate has been more creative, effective and awe inspiring as the Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest.

Showing up in the most unexpected places, organizing in formations unseen before, expanding and deepening in ways no one could have designed, the Compassion Games is proving to be a license to dream and find new solutions to old problems. What’s more, the Games make it OK to do serious work and have fun while doing it.

Inspired when Mayor Greg Fischer suggested his city of Louisville, KY was “ the most compassionate city until proven otherwise,” Jon Ramer of Compassionate Seattle took him up on it. Both great cities put their days of community service in the ring and the Compassion Games were on. It did not take long before other cities heard the same challenge. Los Angeles and Orange County CA, Nashville, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New York City, even Gurgaon India galvanized their communities and proved they knew what “coopetition” means.

One House.  One Heart. In the spirit of  the Native American expression “Nawt-sa-maat” (phonetic), which means One House. One Heart. One Prayer. United in Power to Protect the Sacred, the Compassion Games remind us that we are one human family and there’s a timeless way to accomplish our goals of creating a more compassionate and beloved community. We want to restore the word “compete” back to it’s latin origins of “strive together”. Somewhere along the way, society created a whole different meaning and we think it’s time to return to its roots. The word “coopetition”, which has long been in the dictionary, is being dusted off and lifted to a more significant, and we hope, more commonly used word.

Between the dates of 9/11-9/21 compassionate action has a point value. Whether you are cleaning up your community, reading to children, sitting in meditation, praying for everyone you pass by, or the endless list of ways to be compassionate, it counts. Each act of compassion, hour of service, dollar raised for a non-profit, person served translates into a countable point. When you submit your personal or team’s points on the Compassion Map found on the Compassion Games website, the world can see your compassion and the coopetition heats up on the Leaderboard found on the Home page.

Us humans are wired for compassion. We are also wired to respond to a threat and competition threatens our survival. To survive we have to get fierce, creative and find the fastest way to the most resilient solution. The Compassion Games: Survival of the Kindest provides the opportunity to strive to survive and thrive, but only when everyone else survives and thrives too.

Building Community

Since 2009 members of the interfaith community in Orange County CA have been engaged in an annual weekend of community service. Synagogues, mosques, the BaHa’i Center, Christian Science Reading Room, and several churches participated each year along with the greater community. Then, in 2013 they added the Compassion Games to their effort, simply adding the point system and amplifying their service on the Compassion Map. Overnight, they doubled their volunteerism and 5 new faith institutions joined in. It was clear that each one wanted very much to show the rest of the community just how compassionate they were and no one wanted to be left out.  When the Games were over and the points were tallied the mosque who clearly tallied the most points asked “did we win anything?” Their answer, “yes, you get to go to the synagogue next year and help them beat you.” Everyone wins. Love wins.

The Prison Compassion Games

Love wins in the most unsuspecting places. When Rev. Shayna Lester, a volunteer chaplain at the CA Institution for Women, women’s prison heard about the Games, she knew she had to bring it to the inmates.

Immediately the women responded and self organized. They appointed leadership, created “games” and agreed on how they would account for their points. They agreed to play in housing units and identified their teams by color.  They coined the term “Compassionistas” and came up with games like; walk away from gossip, do a kind deed for another, let another go ahead of you in line, share magazines, food, personal items. And because they understand that everyone wins, it was requested that the Compassionistas who played would celebrate on the final day with a thickly frosted cake; a delicacy. And out of respect for the unit with the highest points, the frosting was in the color of that unit. In the history of this (and likely any) prison, during the 11 days of the Compassion Games there were no recorded incidents of violence. They asked us to visit them last week to help them come up with new games. They did not need my help.  As we sat there in a circle of about 30 women, I could not write fast enough all the ideas they were flooding my way. They added; self compassion, free listening, suicide prevention counseling, free relaxation foot massages, talk to someone you don’t like and enforced walking away from gossip. Together we created the game  “3 points for not being compassionate.” You get 1 point for noticing, and you only get the 3 points if you double up on being compassionate (to yourself or others) immediately. “Fake it ‘til you make it” said one inmate. We call that “Being into a new way of thinking.”

The Compassion Games provide a sense of humanity for these women who have made the decision to be as positive as possible while “behind the gates”. We could all learn from that philosophy in life. What “gates” are we living behind, and how can compassion help us to break free? The Games usher us there.

Expanding Constellations of Relationships

When people ask us how to play the Compassion Games, we immediately respond with, “Well, what are you already doing or what’s going on around you?- Do that!”. While you can make up your own acts of compassion, individual or for a team, we always invite you to amplify the compassionate action that already exists in your community. We don’t want to water down other’s efforts, we want to add a little secret yeast to your ingredients and watch it rise even higher and wider. When Jon Ramer, Compassion Games architect, founder, reluctant to call himself “Commissioner”, first designed the Games, he noticed We The World’s 11 Days of Global Unity between Sept 11 and Sept 21. Instinctively he knew those were the golden days of Compassion and, in the spirit of supporting another’s effort, reached out to Rick Ulfik of We The World who immediately blessed the idea.

Because September 21st is the United Nations International Day of Peace, we encourage our teams to honor that day during their closing ceremonies. Our friends at The UN Cities Peace Team, Cities for Peace, and of course, Monica Willard and Deborah Moldow, the co-chairs of the UN NGO Committee for International Day of Peace are delighted to have the additional attention and intention. Everyone wins. International Peace wins.

Compassion Games Education Coach adds School Games in October

We say “Yes” a lot at the Compassion House, Seattle HQ’s for The Compassion Games International. When Education Coach Rahbin Shyne brought the Games to her own Compassion curriculum in her High School in Long Beach, CA she could feel her already beefy compassion muscle getting bigger. She started reaching out to other schools and inspiring our Education League as “Education Coach”. The first things she suggested we do is encourage schools to play between the dates of October 15 – October 25, the 25th being National Make A Difference Day, a program of the U.S. National Points of Light organization. Without hesitation, we said, YES!”. If it makes sense to teachers and helps to promote Make A Difference Day, then Yes!

Culture of Compassion Coach transforms a county

When social worker intern Lia Mandelbaum  first heard about the Games, she brought them to her boss on campus at Roybal Learning Center High School in Los Angeles. The Games were a wild success, demonstrating the transformative power of compassion over bullying, truancy, disciplinary issues and overall campus culture. Her boss Cherie Hudson recognized the brilliance of the Games and recommended Lia speak to the school based mental health providers for the entire county of Los Angeles. Between Lia, Rahbin and Sande, the 3 have spoken to 4 Areas in under 2 months. Each representative taking the Games to their respective campuses. Lia now serves as our “Culture of Compassion Coach” and she is writing her Master’s thesis on The Compassion Games.

The Divine Plan

In a conversation with LGBT champion, Stonewall veteran and my dear friend Erica Kay Webster about this wave of compassion, Sande suggested this was more than a movement but did not know how to describe it. Erica’s swift matter-of-fact reply, “It’s a divine plan”. And like any divine plan, it  requires we respond with grace, patience and faith.

As our momentum grows and our teams show up, our requests outnumber our capacity and in some case our bandwidth. In true divine spirit, the right solution always shows up. In our case, her name is T Anne Sukova, Director of  Volunteer Programs. Want to lend a hand to us as we midwife this divine plan forward? Call T Anne! Her pragmatic nature, coupled with a sense of humor (required of all of us) have lifted us all to the next level as Game Changers. There are lots of volunteer opportunities to join us on this divine journey of the heart. Bring your heart for data entry, programming, supporting one of our leagues, building partnerships with our partners, or whatever skill you have to contribute.

Several years ago we heard The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research Education founder Dr. James Doty state that Darwin never said “compassion is for the fittest.” He said compassion is for the most adaptable and cooperative. But even if he used the word, it begs us to reexamine what it means to be fit. A fit heart is one that loves, gives and knows compassion. A fit community and world is no different. The Compassion Games is how we strengthen our compassion muscle, inspire the compassion champion in each other and be fit together.

“Keep feeling the need to be first. But I want you to be first in Love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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