Tag Archives: compassion

# 67 Pray for a Stranger

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????       pink-dot      Many years ago I attended an Episcopalian weekend retreat in which we were asked to do something unusual. We were given a piece of paper and asked to write on it a personal concern without giving our name, fold it, and put it in a basket.  The baskets were circulated, and we were then asked to select a piece of paper from the basket, read the concern, and pray for that person.  We were being asked to pray for a stranger.  The paper I read was a confession of self loathing.  I was distressed by it.  I couldn’t imagine who, in that congregation, could feel so terribly about themselves.  I offered my prayer into the community of prayers said that morning in the little wood chapel in a pine forest.

Have you ever prayed for a stranger?

Recently I heard the author River Jordan speak about her memoir, Praying for Strangers.  You can find it at:   http://www.riverjordan.us/books/praying-for-strangers/

Jordan says she embarked on a year of praying for others reluctantly.  She had always seen herself as an author, not someone who wrote about personal experiences.  Yet once she began this journey—of praying for one stranger each day for a year—she felt compelled to continue the journey and to write about it.  She did so by resolving each day to walk up to a complete stranger, asking for the person’s name, then asking permission to say a prayer for them that night.  The results were at times moving, sometimes funny, and often poignant.  One woman remarked to her,  “I’m so glad you asked me.  I was just praying for others this morning, and I asked God if anybody out there was listening.”

Just for today, pray for a stranger. You may not want to walk up to a stranger and ask their name as Jordan did. Simply spot someone you see and make a mental note of that person.  Or consider someone you have read or heard about in the media today who is in crisis.  Tonight, at bedtime, say a prayer for them.  I don’t know if praying has any demonstrable effect on the cosmos.  We are sending out messages to the universe, like the Buddhist prayer flags.  But praying for others does make us more mindful of the suffering of the world..  It keeps us grounded and keeps our own struggles in perspective.

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# 44 Respond to Anger With Insight and Forgiveness

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 .    You do not have to respond to anger with anger. You can respond with insight and forgiveness. Anger in human beings is often the surface expression of emotion that arises out of fear, pain, ignorance, turmoil and confusion, or some other form of distress. See beyond the anger to what lies behind it. When you see the vulnerability there, you can let go of your anger toward the person. Here’s an example. I recently saw a woman who was distraught over her husband’s behavior. He was often paranoid and accusatory when she left the house, insisting she was going out to see another man. Looking back over the last few years, we were able to see how her husband, who was over 70 and retired, had lost the access to many of the activities in life which made him feel successful. He was terrified of losing her to someone who was “more of a man” in his eyes. Rather than argue with him, she began to see the fear behind the anger and reassure him that she valued him and would not leave him.

Consider a person you know who is often angry at you, or at others? Ask yourself these questions. Is he afraid of something? Does he feel betrayed, mistreated somehow? Is he simply uninformed, unable to comprehend things? Is he confused, bewildered, unsure what to do?


Write your statement of forgiveness toward that person and let go your anger at him or her







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# 42 Respond to Anger With Kindness and Compassion


orange-dot              You do not have to respond to anger with anger.  You can respond with kindness and   compassion.  In my work with couples and families, parents and children, I often help people move away from defensiveness, a common problem, and toward understanding and empathy.   I sometimes script responses for them on note cards:  “I didn’t know that made you so upset.”  “Wow.  It really bothered you.”  “Now I see how important that is to you.”  “I’m sorry if I offended you.” “Thank you for your honesty.  Now I know how much that means to you.”  For the speaker, it is the first time they have not been defensive.  For the receiver of the message, it is validation that they have finally been heard.

Recall the words of St. Francis of Assisi.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

Today, recite this prayer in the morning and again in the evening.  Consider how you may apply it to your encounters with other people today.  If you can, practice one of these scripted responses.

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# 2 Reflect on the Ripples in the Stream

pink-dot                                                                                     Prow in the water.jpg

That the five bystanders all came together in a synchronous effort to save this man from imminent death was nothing less than a miracle.  What they did with the experience was even more enlightening.  For Carla Chelko it was a chance to redeem the horrific memory of her brother’s death a year earlier from a heart attack, after her efforts to save him failed.  Plunkett went on to help Chelka’s son raise money for his missionary work in Africa.  Following the publicity of the event, Dr. Davis received a stream of gratitude from people, something he rarely ever got in his medical specialty of anesthesiology.  Dr. Winston, the resident, took the experience as confirmation that cardiology would be his life’s work.  For Dr. Gott, the incident gave his life a sense of meaning and purpose.  Wheeler, the paramedic, won a lifesaving award for her part in the drama.  The memory of that day helps her ward off the tough-minded cynicism that comes with a daily stream of muggings, shootings, and child abuse she is witness to in the big city.  “Something like this makes you a stronger person,” she said.  “It’s made me think, ‘How can I be a more positive person?’ “ 

*  The result of the coming together of these people in an act of moral beauty that transcended the moments and hours it took to save this man from certain death.   The effect was like the wake of a boat as it moves across the stream   You create a wake that moves outward, creating currents that impact the water and the creatures around you.

Consider this for a few minutes–that your simple act of kindness and compassion might not only affect another person deeply, but  that the effect of that act may move outward to affect other people in indirect ways.

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