At a recent Free The Children gathering called We Day that brought together 16,000 student leaders in Vancouver's GM Place, the stadium was silent as the 74-year-old spiritual leader turned down sitting in a chair and walked to the edge of the stage to be closer to the young people.
Making an impression
You could tell by the crowd's reaction that he managed to connect with each and every person present. The entire stadium placed their palms together and stood to bow in respect. Teenagers ceased talking. Younger kids looked on in awe.
His Holiness spoke about making the twenty-first century one of peace. He told everyone that to achieve that, we needed more compassion. Then, he spoke of how this all related back to one woman - his mother.
The Dalai Lama told us that in his childhood, she would carry him on his shoulders as he pulled her in the direction he wanted to go. He told us of her kindness. And through the smile that appeared on his face at the very mention of her name, his message was clear.
"A genuine seed of compassion comes from our mother," he said. "We need infinite compassion, infinite affection."
What is compassion?
Sometimes people attribute compassion to weakness. This could not be further from the truth. Certainly, as His Holiness says, compassion is what breeds harmony and peace – two things that only strengthen the world we live in.
"Let us make this whole world a world of smiles," said His Holiness. "Then, wherever we go, we see our friends and immediately you see friendship develop, trust develop."
As the Dalai Lama made light of getting older, he challenged the younger generation to be compassionate as they become leaders. Then, he challenged parents to model compassion by nurturing their children and showing them infinite love that will be modeled throughout their lives.
Page 1 of 2 - one page 2: how to instill compassion your kids
How we learned about compassion
In hearing the Dalai Lama speak so warmly of his parents and his childhood, it got us thinking about our own family. Through our parents' actions, conversations and challenges, we learned about the importance of caring and compassion in our world.
When we had birthday parties, Mom encouraged us to invite kids who were often excluded and asked us how we would feel in their place. If we recounted to Dad the story of a bully at school, not only did he ask who the bully and victim were, he also wanted to know what we did about the incident.
These may seem like small actions that wouldn't extend much beyond the limits of our schoolyard. But they are the kind of things that get you thinking. How would I feel if I wasn't invited to a birthday party? How would I feel if I was the one being bullied?
What can I do to make sure no one feels like that?
A call to action
Even though our society puts a lot of emphasis on our academic, athletic and artistic abilities, compassion is of equal importance. If your child can look at another person and empathize with their situation, this is truly a gift that should be nurtured.
"Now peace means when there is possibility of conflict or violence, using our common sense of compassion," said the Dalai Lama to his captivated audience. "So therefore the twenty-first century should be the century of peace. That should be our aim."
While this may seem like a daunting call to action, by planting the seeds of compassion in our children, we can nurture them to empathize and seek harmony in our global community.
It's just up to us to lead by example.
Tips for parents:
1. Lead by example
Be a good compassionate role model for your children. Compassion begets compassion. Don't be afraid to show it at every opportunity.
2. Every contribution counts
Enlist your children to do chores around the house and let them know how much their help means to you.
3. Encourage conversation
Talk to your kids about the highlights and lowlights of the day. Then come up with ways that they can take action.
Page 2 of 2