What Makes a Compassionate City?

Lesa R. Walker: What Makes a Compassionate City?

Austin, Texas

Lesa PhotoAs I answer these questions about “What Makes a Compassionate City?” I reflect upon the following excerpt from a recent Charter for Compassion newsletter:

The beauty of Cicero’s words is that we have a choice as to how we live this honorable life:

“The best armor of old age is a well spent life preceding it. Life employed in pursuit of useful knowledge, in honorable actions and the practice of virtue; in which he who labors to improve himself from his youth will in age reap the happiest fruits of them; not only because these never leave a man, not even in the extremes of old age; but because a conscience bearing witness that our life was well spent, together with the remembrance of past good actions, yields an unspeakable comfort to the soul.”

So, in response, I say to all of us (for it is we, the people, who create our communities), “Choose compassion. Pursue compassion. Practice compassion. Live compassion.”


What makes a compassionate city/community?

If your city was one of compassion, what would that look like? What is your idea of a compassionate city?


As Founder of the Compassionate Austin (Texas) movement (https://compassionateatx.wordpress.com/), here are the key definitions and components of our Compassionate City:

What is compassion?

“Among emotion researchers, it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.”  (University of California at Berkeley, the Greater Good Science Center)

What is “3D” Compassion?  It is important to recognize the 3-dimensional (3D) scope of compassion: caring for others, self, and the Earth.  All 3 dimensions are important to complete the whole.

Compassion skills include: awareness, mindfulness, critical thinking, empathy, gratitude, awe, connection, forgiveness, kindness, happiness, optimism, resilience to stress.

Practice is essential to strengthen compassion skills and habits.

Why is compassion important?

“3D” compassion is essential to our current well-being and to the well-being of future generations. Compassion is about the way we choose to live and survive. It requires us to live in ways that enable all to thrive.

Compassion is what motivates people to identify and address personal, community, and global needs.  Compassion is the power source for social innovation!  Compassion is a common, unifying force for social good!

Compassionate Austin


VisionAustin exemplifies and champions compassion, creating a livable, vibrant, inclusive, and caring community in which ALL may thrive.

Mission: Everyone in Austin will become aware and conscious of the significance of compassion (caring for others, self, and the Earth) and will strengthen compassion skills, practice, action, and accountability to meet needs.

Strategy: Through the Compassionate Austin movement we will highlight and support each other, broaden our compassion awareness and intention, collaborate, forge new relationships, strengthen compassion skills and activities to identify and meet community needs, and increase engagement of people throughout Austin and vicinity in compassionate action.

Tenets: We adhere to the tenets of the “Golden Rule” as put forth in the Charter for Compassion and encourage people to affirm the Charter to make a personal commitment to compassionate action.

Core Values: As a member of the Compassionate Communities campaign, Compassionate Austin has an inherent set of core values expressed in the Charter for Compassion.  As an Austin based movement and in recognition of Leadership Austin‘s example for our community, Compassionate Austin also affirms and supports the core values stated on the Leadership Austin website.


How do you personally measure compassion?


I have provided many ways to measure compassion on the Compassionate Austin website: https://compassionateatx.wordpress.com/measure-up/


What do you do to contribute to creating a more compassionate community and world?

I do (have done) the following:  1) try to practice “3D” compassion (caring for others, self, and Earth) daily; 2) volunteer with the Charter for Compassion and Compassion Games International; 3) played an integral role in the Austin City Council passing a Resolution designating Austin as a Compassionate City;  4) serve as Founder of the Compassionate Austin movement- mobilizing, supporting, and celebrating compassionate action in Austin; 5) initiated and serve as Organizer of the OpenIDEO Austin Chapter (design-thinking for social good)- a dynamic expression of Compassionate Austin- holding events to mobilize Austin to generate ideas to address social challenges at the local and global levels; 6) manage the Compassionate Austin website and social media; 7) support and coordinate the Compassion Games locally;  8) connect with other Compassionate City efforts; 9) identify, highlight and collaborate with Compassionate Austin champions; 10) help establish Compassion Integrity Training in Austin; 11) help establish Living Room Conversations Facilitators in Austin; 12) participate and help bring attention to Peace Day Austin and Earth Day ATX; etc.


Where is compassion needed in your city? Where does it exist?

I talk about “Meeting Needs” on the Compassionate Austin website:  https://compassionateatx.wordpress.com/compassion-up/meet-needs/

Compassion is needed daily by everyone in our city AND compassion exists daily.  The Compassionate Austin movement hopes to bring more awareness to the common identity we all share as compassionate human beings.  Each compassionate action we take makes a difference to ourselves, those around us, our community, and our world.  The call to action is to get involved and strengthen compassion skills through practice- to be more aware and vigilant of the needs around you and take positive action to address those needs.


~Lesa R. Walker, MD, MPH
Lesa Walker lives in Austin, Texas. She is Founder of the Compassionate Austin movement, a member of the Leadership Team of the Compassion Games International, and Education Program Associate of the Charter for Compassion. She is Organizer of the OpenIDEO Austin Chapter- a design-thinking and innovation platform to address local and global challenges. She currently works at both local and international levels to engage people in the active practice of “3D” compassion (caring for others, self, and the Earth). She also works as a public health physician, focusing on quality care for children with disabilities and their families.

Copyright © 2018 Excellence Reporter

1 reply »

  1. This was written like a 7th grader practicing for college scholarship applications – I appreciate the concept but can’t put time into an org that’s organized and run with such nascent abilities to communicate the values and what those look like in action. I hope you can get some help making the vision and missions clearer and more digestible.


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