This week’s newsletter sits neatly between two school fundraising events. Last week we ran a P-12 mufti day encouraging students and families to donate to the Bush Church Aid funds, who provide many forms of support for the communities in rural Australia. There was a wonderful and generous response and our School raised almost $5,000 from this day alone.
Next week we will be enjoying Krispy Krème doughnuts and raising funds at the same time to support the aid programs underway in Maphutseng, Lesotho.
As I pondered these activities I did a bit of web searching and is seems that Australia is host to over 50,000 different charitable organisations raising billions of dollars in donations (Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission).
Why am writing about this?
I would like to use these events to start a discussion on the third of our Carey Student Attributes: Show respect and compassion.
In starting the discussion at charitable giving, I would like to note that our School community has a long and fruitful history of acts of generosity and compassion. However, I would like to propose that respect and compassion extend far beyond the activity of fundraising and giving. I would like to encourage everyone to continue in generosity to charities, but generosity in this form is also a limited view of compassion. Rather, respect and compassion are an essential component of our community. It is what characterises community, it is what binds us together.
Lack of respect and compassion can be readily observed as exhibitions of road rage and in our sporting arenas. In a society that champions individuality, immunity against responsibility and ‘my choice as a right’, respect and compassion become sidelined. Without respect and compassion, communities become socially corroded.
To clarify the essence of respect and compassion, I would like to relay an account the Australian philosopher, Raimond Gaita, provides from when he was young and working as a ward assistant in a psychiatric hospital during the 1960s.
While staff carried out their roles with a variety of levels of professionalism and care, one nurse stood out for her compassion towards the patients. She drew close to the patients and as she cleaned the patients of their mess, it was not with condescension. These were not people to be pitied. Her care of the patients, as Gaita recalls, stood out not because she appeared ‘saintly’. Rather her proximity to them, her facial expressions, body language and acts of care lifted the patients up as people worthy of love.
Sometimes, respect and compassion can be demonstrated externally but more often than not, it is near invisible in the completion of mundane activities which demonstrate a simple respect for others. In our School context, this can be as ordinary as ensuring rubbish makes its way into the garbage bin, rather than assuming the cleaners will pick up after us. Taking the time to clean up after ourselves is an opportunity to exercise respect for others and those who work to keep our School functioning well.
Just recently, I watched two young Primary students carrying their canteen boxes for their class just before lunch. The boxes were full of food and drink. The smaller of the two found the box heavy and it slipped from their hands and hit the ground. The other student immediately asked ‘Would you like a hand?’. The first student tightened their grip on the box, picked it up and carried on with a simple ‘No thanks, I’m okay’. This students’ offer of help was not done for show. They didn’t know I saw them, rather it was a simple and age appropriate act of respect and compassion. Observing this attribute in our students at such a young age made my week.
As well as an attitude, respect and compassion are evident in actions. Jesus Christ is our perfect example of compassion. I love the glimpse of Jesus’ compassion that Matthew 9:36 provides us.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
In the context of these chapters, the verse sits amongst accounts of Jesus healing the sick and meeting the people’s spiritual needs.
Respect and compassion are founded on two key concepts:
Firstly, respect for the innate value of a person as someone who has been made in God’s image.
Secondly, compassion comes from the cultivation of sensitivity to the needs of others.
Jesus met both these key elements by entering our world and going to the cross to save us. As well as confirming humanity’s value, this act of love provided a way to meet our most pressing need, a restored relationship with God.
To show respect and compassion is a combination of attitude and action which echoes the ministry of Jesus.
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Phillippians 2:6-8 (NIV)
In His service,