Start Off Your Year With A Plan To Live Compassionately & Give To Others

By Jessica Mitchell

Early last month, I attended the Indiana Youth Institute’s annual Because Kids Count Conference in Indianapolis with my co-workers. I had the privilege of listening to Father Gregory Boyle speak. If you don’t know his story, you’re missing out on an interesting one.

Father Greg (as his friends fondly call him) is the founder and Director of Homeboy Industries and former pastor of Dolores Mission Church. Homeboy Industries was Father Greg’s effort to address the escalating problems and unmet needs of gang-involved youth in Los Angeles. He and many community members developed positive alternatives, including establishing an elementary school, a day care program and finding legitimate employment for young people. His establishments often created the opportunity for rival gang members to work side by side. The outcome? Surprisingly positive.

I was inspired by Father Greg’s call for us to live compassionately and to be considerate of the needs of others. It was a perfect reflection for the beginning of a busy, holiday season and the start of a new year.

“Stand in awe at what the poor has to carry instead of standing in judgment at the way they carry it,” I typed into my phone as he spoke. That line was one of many that resonated with me during his story.

I have started to realize that living with compassion for others often leads to a lifestyle of passion and happiness for yourself. I’ve found the old adage, “the more you give your life away, the more you will find it” to be consistently and undeniably accurate. I recognize that truth more as I get older, and even more as I surround myself with family, friends and co-workers who give so much every day.

Putting the needs of others in front of yourself doesn’t take away from all you have. It adds immensely to the type of person you are. And sometimes I feel as if I find the kindest version of myself by digging in and really looking at the most selfish parts first. When you take a moment to stare down the ugly parts of yourself, it becomes indisputably important to re-channel those thoughts into something positive.

Stopping for a moment to consider someone’s struggles with the questioning of How can I help? instead of What is wrong with this person? helps you to reflect with kindness and thoughtfulness, instead of judgement or discrimination. As Father Greg said, try to stand in awe at the burden, and maybe, if you try hard enough, you might determine a way to take away some of that hardship from someone else.

Hoping everyone starts off 2016 with kindness and compassion in mind, and as you discover the roadblocks that make those intentions difficult, perhaps make a resolution or two to start you on your way to a more joyful year.

Jessica Mitchell is the Marketing & Design Coordinator at Youth Resources.