It’s time to make it official. Greater Toledo and Northwest Ohio will move from the column of “actively organizing to become compassionate communities” to “signed the Charter for Compassion.” It's one of 35 cities or neighborhoods in eight countries, the first geographic region to join, and the second Ohio location—Cincinnati is the other—to sign, according to charterforcompassion.org.
Many more areas, including entire states and countries, are engaged in the process to become recognized for their compassionate actions.
The Charter for Compassion had its start in 2008, when author Karen Armstrong received an award from the TED organization that included the granting of “a wish for a better world.” Her wish was to have a charter that “would restore compassion to the heart of religious and moral life,” as Ms. Armstrong put it in her book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. With the help of the Internet, the charter came into being in 2009 with suggestions from more than 150,000 people from 180 countries, which a group of religious scholars crafted into a pledge. Individuals can sign the charter at charterforcompassion.org/charter, and more than 106,500 have done so; businesses, other organizations, and communities have different procedures to support the charter.
Becoming a charter signatory is not just a self-congratulatory pat on the back. In essence, it is an agreement to follow the Golden Rule and to apply compassion in a city’s conduct. Louisville, Ky., was the seventh signer of the charter; its mayor, Greg Fischer, for whom compassion was a foundational theme in his campaign for election, has contacted Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins with congratulations and to offer support. Attorney Thomas M. Williams, co-host of the Partnership for a Compassionate Louisville, will come to Toledo for the charter weekend. Though governments are involved, “We disconnect from politics by putting compassion at the helm,” Mr. Williams said. “We’re not against anything. We say that we’re universally positive. … We become the safe place where a lot of groups that might not be together can come together.”
Taking up the Charter for Compassion “really is a global movement,” Mr. Williams said. “It’s very energizing, quite frankly, to be involved with something that’s blossoming in so many places at once.”
Members of Toledo’s Compassionate Community team have met regularly at the house of Judy Lee and Woody Trautman in Toledo to plan greater Toledo’s weekend celebration and talk about how to highlight compassion in the region.
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Opportunities for volunteering in Northwest Ohio will be available throughout the weekend. Louisville’s Mayor Fischer sponsors annual “Give a Day” weeks encouraging people to volunteer there. The first week, in 2012, had 90,000 volunteers; there were 107,000 in 2013; and this year’s week started April 12 and ends Sunday. “For a lot of people, they’ve never been involved in the life of the community because they didn’t know how to do it,” Mr. Williams said. Through volunteer service, “people see themselves as citizens” performing acts of compassion, he said, and “compassion is good soil to build a community on.” Volunteerism will be important to Toledo’s compassion work and networking, as well.
Friday at 10 a.m. at One Government Center, Mayor Collins, Toledo City Council president Paula Hicks-Hudson, a Lucas County commissioner, and others will gather for public recognition of the charter signing — Mayor Collins has the official inking honor — and will speak about compassion and what endorsing the charter means for the region.
A Compassion Networking Convention, open to the public and with free admission, follows, Friday from noon to 8 p.m., at SeaGate Convention Center, 401 Jefferson Ave. Programs featuring community leaders on addiction and mental health, education, ending human trafficking, funding and grant writing, housing, hunger and health, and media support of a compassionate community are planned. A 4:30 p.m.“meet and greet” time for youth from Toledo Public Schools’ Young Men and Women of Excellence, United Muslim Association Youth, and other groups is part of the convention. Health screenings will be available throughout the afternoon and evening, and there will be displays of issues and opportunities for compassionate work in the community. Space for Muslim prayers will also be available at the appropriate time.
On Sunday at Lourdes University’s Franciscan Center, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania, the annual MultiFaith Banquet will take place at 4 p.m., preceded by the option of walking tours of the grounds or Buddhist meditation at 3 p.m. The MultiFaith Council of Northwest Ohio began the initiative for Greater Toledo to be a compassionate region. The Rev. Jim Bacik is the keynote speaker, and Mr. Williams will also give remarks. Registration for the banquet, which can be done online via compassionatetoledo.org or multifaithcouncil.org, is $24 for adults, $15 for students age 13-25, and $12 for youth age 12 and under through Monday, then $30, $18, and $15 until the banquet reaches capacity. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-475-6535.