When I see someone go out of their way to alleviate the suffering of others, it gives me hope. In a time when humans can so easily and so recklessly inflict profound damage upon the natural world, it can be easy to lose hope. As a species we can be blithely destructive, consuming untold resources just to appease our desire for comfort or amusement. The balance for this, (and undoubtedly the only thing that could stay our inevitable self-annihilation) is compassion. So when I see someone make the comfort of others a bigger priority then their own comfort, I think maybe, just maybe, we as a people can develop a sense of compassion that is greater than our destructive nature.
As our civilization evolves and our destructive potential increases, you can also see the balancing effect of compassion evolve in parallel. In earlier phases of our culture’s development, you may not see people committed to feeding or clothing the poor, or advocating for the rights of animals. Now you see these things. They have become more normal. Of course, large trends or societal shifts toward compassionate activity don’t just pop up out of nowhere fully formed. They start small with one person or a small group, and gradually gain momentum. People see the work of these pioneers in compassion and think to themselves, “That’s great work for a worthy cause. I wonder how I can help”. Eventually these like-minded observers incorporate compassionate activity into their own lives.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to a couple of new friends of mine. They are very proactive with the kinds of compassionate activity that I find inspirational.
Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner is a Unitarian Universalist minister, wildlife veterinarian, and certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication. Her experience includes 30 years working in Latin American with marginalized people and endangered wildlife and nearly 20 years working in Unitarian Universalist ministry. And she is Co-Director of One Earth Conservation, which is dedicated to creating a better world by empowering the people saving the planet.
In Rev. Joyner’s own words; “I have worked in avian conservation in Latin America for nearly thirty years as a wildlife veterinarian. The beauty and the power of the people and parrots there draws me to be in solidarity with them and to witness and share their struggle. To be a better partner in promoting the health of individual beings and biotic communities, I became an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, a Certified Trainer in Nonviolent Communication, and a member of the two-year Unitarian Universalist Entrepreneurial Program. These skills and experiences aid me in promoting the health of humans, for without the flourishing of people, the parrots do not stand a chance, and without the flourishing of life on earth, we humans will live narrower and less vibrant lives.”
Leigh Scott is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry, which is a group of concerned Unitarian Universalists and UU friends who desire to grow and express their faith as compassion towards all beings. Drawing on UU principles and sources, traditions, and congregational life to deepen awareness of the interdependence of life. And supporting one another in not just learning how caring for all beings is a moral and religious issue, but also engaging in concrete actions that bring about change on the individual, family, congregational, community, and societal level.
Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner, Leigh Scott and a small group of likeminded individuals recently visited Garuda Aviary looking to make a connection and thereby widen the network of compassionate activists. As you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about. And we agree on a great many things. Like the preciousness of all life. And the vital interdependency of every living thing on our planet. One species cannot be negatively affected or driven toward extinction without similar negative affects to other species in its ecosystem. Essentially, if one suffers, all suffer.
At this point in the development of our civilization, humans have the means, and possibly the will to destroy every delicate ecosystem on our planet without any regard to the consequences. The only part of the human spirit that has any chance of restraining our selfishly destructive nature is compassion. It is the element of balance.
Now you have seen us, my friends and I. You have witnessed our activity. So what will you do? Will you remain a bystander? Or will you incorporate compassionate activity into your life, becoming part of the balancing element that nurtures the world rather than devours it.
What will you do?
I hope you will join us.