Robert-SchellenbergAs I write this I am traveling to the East for my grandfather’s funeral. He was the true embodiment of compassion. He lived a truly compassionate and wonderful life.  His had a life full of giving, in his church and in his community, as a city councilman. His lived and personified a life of love, he dedicatd his heart to his eleven children and neary thirty grandchildren. Perhaps even more significantly, he adored and cherished his wiife.  Theirs was a love so profound in its simplicity and amazing in its longevity. What strikes me most about the life of this truly good man is how he was able to be a pillar of strength, compassion and love, both in the community and in his family and also be a person of intense moderation and unfazed grace. I tell you this story to illustrate how it is possible to lead an extraordinary and compassionate life without anger, minimal stress and a commitment to love.

I often meet parents in the middle of the biggest crisis in their lives, where they are at a loss of where they should go, legally or academically, with a student with special needs. Although these parents are often the strongest most steadfast people I have met, they are also overwhelmed and disconnected from their other relationships. Oftentimes, the only relationship they consistently work on and “advocate for” is that of their special needs child, and too often this has implications in the marital relationship, the relationship with their other children and with their civic and religious communities. The relationship that is most lost and devoid of compassion, however, is the relationship with the parent and themselves. Today, I write to you to implore you, as a parent of an exceptional child, to take just two minutes a night (and then move it up) for yourself. Do a simple stretch, a meditation app on your phone, learn Chinese or just take a two minute longer shower.

As I write this, the safety instructions of the plane are being announced over the loud speaker. Put your own oxygen mask on first. In my life, the best relationships and most proactive people know that there is selflessness, love, grace, strength and compassion in taking care of themselves. As for my dear grandfather, a man whose compassion and love knew no bounds, there wasn’t a night I remember that he didn’t have one vodka with his wife at 5 pm, no matter where he was in the world. This is how he demonstrated his own preservation, gratitude for his life and his wife and self-compassion. I know that my grandfather and grandmother (lovingly called Oma and Opa) are reunited and enjoying their 5 o’clock cocktail. In honor of this movement toward a more compassionate global community, start with yourself.  For just a few minutes each day, do something just for you, whether that be a long bath or a vodka with your spouse. Opa would approve.

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