Compassion is often misconstrued as a sibling to being nice or polite. Compassion does not require offering cheap grace to someone who has done us or others harm or has broken their relationship with us. Being compassionate does not necessarily mean we are compelled to offer compassion when a policy, an individual, or a group which has caused pain and suffering is still inflicting the pain and has done nothing to change or make amends.

Compassion involves seeing the other as a suffering human being and then acting fittingly. There is a wonderful scene in the 1991 movie, Hook, a re-make of the Peter Pan story. A grownup Peter, Peter Banning, has become a work-deadened adult in London. In order to save children kidnapped by his nemesis, Captain Hook, Peter must go back to Neverland. When he does, his Lost Boys, who never grew up, don’t recognize him. But one walks up to Peter, who is kneeling on the ground. The boy probes Peter’s face, looking, looking, looking to see if Peter Pan is behind those weary eyes. When the boy pulls Peter’s cheeks back into a forced smile, the boy breaks into his own huge smile, and in a small but excited voice, he says, “Oh! There you are, Peter!”

That is being seen. That is the door into compassion. Seeing, and being seen.

Compassionate Tulsa has been asked by friendly critics, “Increasing compassion seems challenging to do and difficult to measure. How will you know when Compassionate Tulsa has been successful?”

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