There is something warm and fuzzy about signing up to a Charter for Compassion. It says this about what it is about
The Golden Rule requires that we use empathy -- moral imagination -- to put ourselves in others' shoes. We should act toward them as we would want them to act toward us. We should refuse, under any circumstance, to carry out actions which would cause them harm.
Which seems to me to be a good start. However there is something to me about action which demands something of us. If compassion were easy, why would there be all the fuss about it? And so we have to ask ourselves - what can I do? What cost am I prepared to pay to put compassion into practice?
It is often easier to do things for people that we don't know - give some money for a good cause or sign a petition. It is can be more difficult to do something for those that we know. How do we show compassion for those around us? Within our own Unitarian communities - local, national and international - what might we be called to do?
The issue of money is a touchy subject. And yet for many people the issue is about money. I remember when my daughter was small that I would use her Christmas money to pay for food so that we could eat during the month of January until I got paid when I would pay her back. Single-parenthood brought financial difficulties which I had not experienced since my childhood. And because I had experienced them in my childhood it took me back to those times when I felt helpless and different to my friends. Money is an emotive subject for a variety of reasons.
During the years friends have paid for hotel stays when I have gone away with them as they knew that I would struggle to afford it. Another friend in a two-income, no-child household sent me a cheque for over £500 when an assurance policy matured - he and his partner's kindness meant so much. I have been touched by such actions - love in action. To make real a person's love and concern by doing that very practical thing of providing money has meant so much to me and to my life.
Perhaps I am sensitized to this and I am glad that I am. I have tried to be supportive of friends and those in our local community who struggle. It is not easy for those in need and those trying to help. I once sent a friend of mine some money and my mother told me off - as if it was not the thing to do. On the phone I asked my friend if she felt offended - ready to apologise - on the contrary she had needed money at that point and was glad of it.
Many of us live in a world where we always have enough money for the mortgage, the food, the utility bills and more besides. But many of us do not. We may stand side by side with people every Sunday whose circumstances are very different to ours. We don't have special pews or boxes these days for those with the money. We are all in it together.
Should Unitarians try to do something about this? And if so what? To help those Unitarians wanting to attend training events and conferences I have started a Facebook page - UHU (Unitarians Helping Unitarians). There are three rules - which are
- Ask when you are in need;
- Give when you can; and
- Give what you can.
I know the importance of getting a financial leg-up. I hope that others will be motivated to help fellow Unitarians in financial need. It could, and most probably will, change someone's life.