Compassion is like the wind. You cannot see it or hold it but you can experience the impact and the outcomes.
This page will provide a few examples of compassion applied in different contexts.
Cumulative Compassion – Big Col’s Story
“Big Col” is a man whose life has been turned upside down since the autumn of 2019. He has ambulatory problems and drove a modified car. He was introduced to the Staithes Men’s Shed in late Spring 2019 through the encouragement of Isabelle Harrison of Ryedale Carers and the Lythe Farmers’ Breakfast, and Hazel Halley of NYCC Living Well.
A great conversationalist, a thinker and with a good sense of humour. A giver not just a taker.
Suddenly he stopped coming, though it was in winter. We next learnt that he was in hospital where he was diagnosed with heart failure followed by sepsis. He came to Whitby Hospital to recover and we paid him some visits having to keep our distance in pre-Covid times.
What became apparent was that he was also in Whitby Hospital because he could not be cared for at home because of his need for potential assistance 24/7. Eventually he and the family realised that with Covid-19 lockdown very much on the cards, a speedy decision was needed and Big Col entered a Whitby care home where he immediately did a 12 week room lockdown.
In terms of activities like driving, being a choir member, enjoying home life and a dog, the Farmers’ Breakfast, Debbie Swales’ Memory Lane lunches and time at the Sheds, Big Col’s social life ground to a halt. Dead stop.
He said several times that he did not expect to be in a care home so relatively early and with a sound mind.
Was he happy? Not really. Not easy to see light at the end of his tunnel. He had his significant dips. He did make one very positive move by deciding he would master social media and video conferencing. That and his mobile phone became his channel to old friends and new friends, and the Shed. He did that despite several set backs with technology that we all have.
He was contacted by Peter Richardson of WetWheels with the promise of a trip from time to time on the high seas. More importantly, and a credit to Peter, the two of them have some good conversations.
Very recently (August 2020) Big Col said how much the members of Whitby Community Alliance mentioned above have meant to him in terms of services but primarily friendship. He says he has realised that he has to reinvent himself and his circumstances in the Larpool care home to continue to be as independent as possible and keep control of his life.
The man is a shining example of someone who appreciates what he receives and is pleased to contribute with his encouragement what is going on around him and for other people.
The Man and the Dog Walker
This is about Empathy but not quite Compassion.
A lady dog walker was spoken to by an elderly gent. He liked the dog and then asked if she was on her own. She was a little puzzled though not concerned. She said, quite truthfully, she had a husband at home and had got to get back to make the evening meal.
The man looked a little sad and said he had wanted to invite her to have a coffee with him. To chat.
We can but conject that the man was lonely – as many people are. Living on their own maybe and lacking company.
I asked if she knew where he lived but she had not come across him before. He might enjoy some company at a Shed I suggested. It can be a life changer just to be with others.
If she sees him again she might ask him if he is lonely. Maybe he gets food parcels but days can drag and even a few words spoken and received can brighten a day.
The dog walker met the man two days later. She remembered him and stopped to talk.
His wife has died. They had been married 50 years. The dog walker told him about Sheds. He said he had been to one but it’s not for him. She said there were others. His name is XXXXX. Maybe in his 80s. They chatted a bit and he was invited to knock if he was passing the house.
When they do meet again, the dog walker will try to discover a little more about him and maybe discover if he is in touch with support of one sort or another. How he feels about that and whether there is family in travelling distance.
It is amazing the difference a conversation in the day can make. Something to think about.
To be continued . . . maybe
What one artist sees as a picture of compassion
When asked my view on compassion I was challenged to really think hard about it.
The first picture to appear in my head was that of a waterfall; but as iconic as that picture might be it wasn’t a true representation of compassion. I needed to dig deeper to figure it out. Here are my thoughts:
Compassion comes from the heart. It isn’t a head thing. It doesn’t roar like a waterfall. It doesn’t crash down. It is like a spring gently bubbling up. This picture of a spring in a desert and gently flowing over the sands, bringing life to the desert regions is more accurately what compassion is.
I also think in colours. Compassion should run deep in us and I then think of deep purples, blues, reds, dark greens – all the richness of the colours that our eyes can see.
The desert spring flows into a stream that may run shallow through the sands but over time it deepens and carves the desert out, creating valleys and oases for life to flourish and palm shade from the heat of the sun.
That is what our compassion can result in when we act upon it.
On the TV news a couple featured. The man had early onset dementia and his wife was his carer. Diagnosed in 2017 his condition had advanced quite quickly. Just about 60 years of age. It was difficult to watch.
There are dedicated groups in Whitby focused on dementia and advising carers. So needed to help couples cope. However, there are groups who welcome having sufferers who are still able to look after themselves in the general group with no special treatment but simply taking account of their situation and slowing the pace down.
A Men’s Shed is one such group and it can encourage carers so much also. Seeing sparks of the past. Convention says we should treat people with respect. How should a Shed do that? The approach taken is not to treat the individual as dependent (though some are) but as an equal. Those in Sheds banter a lo t and that is what those with dementia are treated to also. Sometimes the jokes are emphasised (and oft repeated) but essentially Shedders with dementia are simply Shedders. In every one there are bright sparks from the past and occasionally a flame, but they are included in the family exchanges.
When the carer comes to collect it is gratifying for them to witness not someone being specially cared for but simply included as anybody else.
The atmosphere would not be the same without them. There is a good dollop of compassion in it.
Pass/share the ball compassion
Sept 28/29th 2020. A very current example of compassion that probably is not thought of as so. In fact, one act led to a chain reaction of potential +ve little outcomes that are seeds that might grow. Let’s go to the start.
An email arrived from a lady at Coast and Vale Community Action. That is, of course, an organisation and its compassion derives not from a mission statement but the attitudes and doings of its team.
The email said,”I work at CaVCA and am working alongside NYCC on their school readiness pilot called Grow and Learn. This is to encourage parents/carers to chat, read, sing and play with their children to improve speech, language and communication and get them “school ready”. NYCC are offering a grant to any new, existing and innovative projects that are pre-school child focused and I wondered if there was something we could do together, perhaps a story shed, maybe the attendees of the youth shed would like to read a story to little ones once a week ? I’d love to know your thoughts.”
Within 3 hours we were in a garden unpacking the email. The working together was to stimulate thinking about angles that the “community” might have roles in. How do you get messages out these days to the people you want to know about it when you don’t know them:-).
How did she find Sheds? She had no knowledge of Sheds (a lot about tots though) but she overheard a colleague talking to a man who needed befriending at this time and Shed was mentioned. She Googled it and found the Whitby Sheds web-site and saw mention of the Youth Shed in Sleights. Hence her suggestion. Brilliant bit of proaction on her part.
Intrigue about the email was what took that forward within a few hours in discussion. It happens to fit something going on for children and young people in Whitby Community Alliance and Whitby Community’s Compassion project.Thus the next step first thing the next morning was a blind copied email of the above content to a group of individuals with different areas of activity and interests. A scatter gun action but with a bit of focus.
[Why blind copied, you may well ask. Because sometimes recipients don’t like their details shared or don’t want to feel pressured into a response. There are few ways these days to get information reliably running on its legs!. Those people can speak to others etc. etc. Very happenstance but very much in the Connectors mode of this project]
The email led almost immediately to three responses. One was from someone who had co-authored a lengthy national study (196 pages!) on the topic. The seeds are sown. Two important outcomes are that two people know each other exist and both now know what Sheds are!
Thursday 1st October. Had a meeting in one area with an interested party to discuss how this might build on and possibly extend in innovative ways an initiative that had already been working successfully but, of course, Covid closed. Compassion thinks and does for others.
We agreed we are looking beyond Covid, recognising that we need to be ready and possibly find ways to cope if restrictions continue “indefinitely”.
Compassionate hoteliers, restaurants, take-aways and townspeople
An expansion of sharing things in Frome
Frome’s unique share shop is embarking on a new venture and they are looking for some voluntary help. The library of shares – where you can borrow anything from a tent to a bubble machine – is committed to reducing waste via customers borrowing things rather than buying.
How it works is that you sign up as a member and borrow your item for as long as you need it before returning for someone else to be able to borrow it next.
The share shop has been going for over 5 years and will be the first of many Libraries of Things to operate within a federated charity structure headed up by SHARE:UK. They will become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) and so need people to sit on their board of trustees. The commitment would be for between five and ten hours a month with meetings 6-7 times a year?
Read more on www.sharefrome.org
Joining forces with other organisation to help individual people
Turn over a stone, and what might be found? Revival North Yorkshire has transformed its work to fit Covid-19 demands. Gone (for now) are social lunches with memorabilia and memories and it has become the distribution of meals to those they already served and to many new, largely older, people.
Turning over the stone of doorstep food provision with a bit of chat led to the discovery of other needs that Revival passed on to other initiatives to help solve.
Thus our Sheds have walked a dog, cut a lawn several times and now made a three bar gate to keep a low level pooch safe from leaving a home when the front door was open!
This is what is happening between many organisations almost certainly but it is good to put a finger on instances that have provenance (as they say!).
There were other very worthwhile outcomes surrounding this example which are covered on Whitby District Sheds web-site. Take a look