I decided to enroll in the four-day “Boundless Compassion” retreat at Spirit in the Desert when I read in the brochure: “Compassion can change a heart, change a life, change a world. True compassionate presence involves more than offering a hand or heart to another … it is a willingness to be personally transformed.”
Joyce Rupp, a nationally known retreat leader and prolific writer, led the retreat.
During the first day, fifty participants from several states and the local area learned that compassion can be our standard operating procedure and genuine concern for all others can be the way we always act.
The last day’s theme was compassion for the earth and all living beings. During the morning session, my mind flew to my family – son, Karl, daughter-in-law, Debbie, and granddaughter, Nicole in Minneapolis. I thought of the compassion they were giving at that very moment to their family pet, Allie, a four-year-old black Labrador. Allie wasn’t her usual energetic self on her morning walk with Karl. By that afternoon, Debbie noticed Allie couldn’t get up on the hassock, her favorite place to look out of the living room window.
It was clear something was seriously wrong with Allie. Compassionate action was called for and my family spent the weekend with Allie at veterinary clinic where the doctors tried to figure out why she was paralyzed, similar to a paraplegic. Spinal surgery did not find the cause and did not correct the problem. Allie received love, compassion, and expensive medical care.
Compassion for Allie continues at home where she now needs a great deal of care, including holding up her back legs with a harness so she can walk half a block using only her front feet. Compassion is not easy; it requires going deep into our hearts and finding our ability to give, even when it is difficult and painful.
I spent four inspiring days at Spirit in the Desert learning about compassion. What I learned helped me understand that my family was also inspiring me by living compassion for Allie and each other.