Compassion It is a global social movement inspiring daily compassionate actions. How did it come to be? Founder Sara Schairer shares her story.
Did you know that ‘compassion’ is a noun? In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, you’ll find the definition: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.
But, that sounds more like a verb to me. And, thanks to a gift from the universe and many incredible people, compassion IS now a verb.
Nearly five years ago, the universe planted a beautiful seed during an unlikely time. I was facing an unwanted divorce, taking care of my 18-month old daughter, and looking for a job during the economic fallout. I was depressed, and quite frankly, I was a mess. My picture-perfect life had been turned upside down, so I was suddenly searching for big signs towards a new direction.
One day, I caught an episode of “Ellen” that featured an interview the author Wayne Dyer, and he said something I’ll never forget, “Compassion is the most important skill to teach our children. If we teach a new generation to put themselves in others’ shoes, the world’s social problems would disappear.”
That moment changed my life. It made sense to me. No more war, no more hunger. You name it and it’s gone, if we could only teach our children to practice The Golden Rule.
The idea of compassion stayed in my head throughout that entire day. Suddenly, the word ‘compassionate’ appeared in my brain as two separate words: ‘compassion it.’
I felt I had stumbled upon an obvious, yet substantial idea, that this is how we should treat each other and live our lives — we should compassion it! That’s how ‘compassion’ became a verb for me.
I started applying this to my own life and found that when I ‘compassioned it,’ I had the best outcomes. Even when it was extremely challenging to do through my divorce (and I can assure you that I did not always remember to ‘compassion it’ during that time), it always yielded better results than I expected.
It took me a few years to gain the courage to do anything with Compassion It, because I had to concentrate on getting my life back on track. Then, in the summer of 2011, I felt a sense of urgency to spread this two-word phrase to the masses. By February of 2012, I was starting a six-month-long fellowship for social innovation leaders, which meant I now had a team of young social entrepreneurs-in-training investing both time and energy into Compassion It.
Initially, I thought about starting Compassion It as an apparel brand, but felt deep down that it was much more than that — Compassion It needed to be a social movement. A brilliant friend advised that I sell something less expensive than a t-shirt.
“You should make something inexpensive like a bracelet,” she suggested. ‘But,’ I thought, ‘Livestrong started that eons ago! Who wears those things anyway?’
I let the idea simmer until I realized we could create a reversible bracelet that prompted action. A person could start the day with the dark side facing out and flip it to the light side when she or he ‘compassioned it.’
On May 10, 2012 (my birthday), 1,000 reversible black-and-white bracelets arrived in the mail. One of my clever fellowship teammates thought we should pair the bracelets when selling them, so that a person’s first act of compassion would be to give one away. Brilliant.
Less than two months later, Casey Tanner and Alyssa Chassman (fellows on my team) brought Compassion It to their town of Northbrook, Ill. Their community was devastated after losing two teenaged boys to suicide and another in a car accident, all within three weeks. Tanner and Chassman set up a Compassion It bracelet fundraising event, and within 42 minutes they sold all 500 pairs of bracelets. The bracelets united the town and offered people something they could do to heal their grieving hearts.
Since then, the momentum hasn’t stopped.
Compassion It is now a global social movement inspiring compassionate actions on six continents thanks, in large part, to this YouTube video
by British teen Carrie Hope Fletcher. To date, this video has had over 154,000 hits.
A teenager England is planning a Compassion It week at his school; a Peace Corps teacher in Liberia and a University of Illinois college professor used these bracelets as a tool for teaching compassion to their students; an elementary school in San Diego is selling bracelets as a meaningful fundraiser and to spread the message of compassion to its community; a nonprofit organization out of Los Angeles brought bracelets to Nicaragua, taught children what it means to ‘compassion it,’ and created this video
about their experience.
And that’s just the beginning. Our hope is that Compassion It will be a nonprofit organization that changes the social consciousness of the world. Because our bracelets can be used as a fundraising tool, we envision Compassion It movements popping up in schools, churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other organizations across the globe.
Every week, stories pour in about how Compassion It bracelets are changing lives for the better:
“There was a little girl near my hometown who was bullied so much she committed suicide. They were selling the Compassion It bracelets to help pay for her funeral, and every day I make sure to restart my bracelet to black and to change it to white.”
“I absolutely love helping people without expecting anything in return.”
“I want to help out Compassion It as soon as I can! You have changed my life and the way I treat people just by a bracelet and an amazing vision. I thank you!”
In the future, I’d like to see bracelets on the wrists of our political leaders, so that our mayors, city council members, and representatives of congress can ‘compassion it.’ After all, wouldn’t it be great if world leaders would wear Compassion It bracelets and shake hands across borders?
Compassion It’s mission is to inspire daily compassionate actions, and the good news is that we’re actively doing it. We plan to teach compassion in schools, because I whole-heartedly agree with Wayne Dyer. Compassion is the MOST important tool to teach our children. Not only is compassion the antidote for violence and bullying, but research also shows that it truly makes us happier and healthier.
To keep the momentum going, we need help from as many people as possible. I invite you to bring Compassion It
to your community and use bracelets as an impactful fundraiser. Start a Compassion It movement, and notice what happens when your community embraces The Golden Rule.
Compassion is a verb now. No question. Maybe someday Merriam-Webster will agree.