Lexington, put compassion as a top priority

People held candles during a vigil at Triangle Park in Lexington Wednesday to honor the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
People held candles during a vigil at Triangle Park in Lexington Wednesday to honor the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

It hasn’t been an easy fall. Vivid images from Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, Florida and Harvey linger, at least for now.

Utter desperation and fear on the faces of those trying to flee danger is an image that penetrates. Not long ago it was nursing-home occupants, including an elderly woman in a wheelchair submerged in water from the waist down, who captured our empathy. But, remarkably, different images surface as well.

Social boundaries momentarily fade and person-to-person care and regard for others becomes the only viable option. Spiritual connections and relationships appear. Out of suffering, temporary thoughtfulness ascends.

In Lexington and around the world, the Charter for Compassion movement is growing with a call to integrate compassion into our way of living rather than confine it to extraordinary moments.

According to Karen Armstrong, the international force behind the movement, compassion is universally needed in our fractured times: “We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.”

Using compassion as the foundation of city planning, policing, health care and criminal justice brings results.

Karen Freeman-Wilson, mayor of Gary, Ind., a community 40 percent of whose residents live in poverty, has been striving to create relationships between police officers and community members. The goal is for the community to see police officers as human beings and police officers to see community members as human beings.

It’s not just feel-good policing. Gary went over a year and a half without any police-involved shootings.

We have our own unique challenges, as well as successes, here in Lexington. No doubt, compassionate acts large and small are occurring throughout town, some recognized while others overlooked. We can, however, intentionally make compassion a daily lived experience in Lexington by rendering our city a member of the Charter for Compassion.

Concretely, this means that residents and members of our city’s essential institutions — educational, health care, financial, faith, governmental, criminal justice, nonprofits, etc. — use compassion as a foundation for business and personal interactions.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, the city council will vote to adopt the resolution for compassion and formally ratify the Charter for Compassion. Should the resolution be ratified, our work will begin, and we need everyone’s creativity, time, energy and support:

▪ Participate in the logo contest.

▪ Attend the Lexington UNITED Interfaith Thanksgiving Encounter at the Historic Saint Paul Church on West Short Street at 7 p.m. on Nov. 6.

▪ Celebrate the formal creation of Compassionate Lexington by attending a reception in January.

▪ Host activities sponsored by Leadership Lexington in the spring.

Let us join residents of other cities, including Louisville, who have deliberately committed to compassion. We hope to see many residents at the Thursday council meeting, voicing support for making Lexington a Charter for Compassion city and, then, joining every Lexingtonian to make compassion our hallmark.

Susan Lamb represents District 4 on the Urban County Council. Rosie Moosnick and Marsha Moors-Charles are co-chairs for the Compassionate Lexington Coordinating Circle Work Group. Reach them at compassionatelex