Celebrating compassion and kindness through real life stories
- September 28, 2022
This is a contribution post by Anjali G Sharma
When was the last time you listened to, extended help with kindness and made someone smile. How did it make the other person feel, how did it make you feel? Neuroscience says that extending or receiving compassion both make us happy. Yet in the busyness of our pursuits and perception-based outlook, we are losing this magical connect with something which is a basic human trait.
My Act of Heart – a global anthology attempts to rekindle compassion through stories, tapping at the source where it exists in its purest form – children. A compilation of 29 heart-warming stories decked up with 50+ beautiful full colour illustrations and mentionable acts by children from around the world, My Act of Heart inspires the reader for a kinder and more empathetic perspective towards the quotidian.
Compassion is often misunderstood as a weakness. However, the truth is that it is an action born out of courage to feel for someone, do something and bring change in a conflicting situation – either about self or for others around self. And children embody it in its purest form – without biases and any lenses. Because we all have #TheKindnessGene. We are born to be kind.
It is life’s situations and our surroundings in general that may change this inherent quality. But we can always unlearn and relearn to be kind again.
“I don’t judge myself on how I fared in exams or how beautiful I look, but now I judge myself on how many good deeds I did”
“I often hear that what will one act of kindness do? But it was one act of kindness and compassion that took me out from the slum and handheld me to the school. And changed my life.”
These are not just mere statements. But few of the actual anecdotes as shared by children. Don’t these lines inspire?
The Butterfly Wings
Just like the wings of a butterfly, these little stars of compassion have created believable changes in their and others’ worlds. A reinforcement that “big things come in small packages”.
We reached out and spoke with these children. It was heart-warming and inspiring to see these children had chosen compassion and empathy over and above everything else when faced with a challenging situation. They could have easily ignored and moved past, but they decided to act.
There was Ailish from Australia, whose letters to homeless were bringing hope and smiles all across; Ananya from Hyderabad whose act of self-compassion, amazed both Deepika (co-author) and me as to how a child her age, had chosen to be less hard on herself, something which as adults also we often struggle to do. Noyonika from Bangalore was helping her mother navigate through the pandemic and Aditya from Ghaziabad showed us the light through his conversations with his grandma who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. While Grace from Singapore put herself in her friends’ shoes and chose to act out of empathy, 12-year-old, Amalia from Atlanta was penning songs and recording videos to raise money to help children who were losing on their learning during the pandemic. There were so many overwhelming nuggets of compassion like these, each one awe-inspiring!
It was a beautiful and surreal experience reading about their acts and talking to these stars. Compassion indeed as a beautiful thread tied them all. It had brought all of us together on a common platform across our diversities, ethnicities, religions and languages.
Structuring the book
A lot of ideation and work had to be done for structuring the book to make it simple in narrative and engaging for the reader. There was an emerging thread. We started from self-compassion, extending outwards to friends and family, to strangers, to their communities, to planet and animals. Some of the stories were adapted, written and edited based on our interviews with these stars of compassion while others were only edited. All along this process, we made sure that the voice of our stars of compassion is preserved as much as possible. We shared these wonderful nuggets with a group of young children and asked them to draw how they felt and that set the stage for the beautiful illustrations as perceived by an innocent reader.
We wanted to ensure that after a story is read, the reader is also able to relate it with their context and act next time when they face a similar situation in their life. So, after every story, we included a doable activity or a thought to force the reader to reflect and take a step towards building their compassion and empathy muscle stronger.
My Act of Heart was released in paperback format on Amazon India earlier this year and recently in US and Canada. It has been a journey of close to one and half years of ideating and bringing this book to the world. It is heartening to see the reviews as they have started to pour in. And while it has been an intensive path with several lows and losses due to the pandemic and other hardships during the journey of bringing the book, as I look back, I feel a new dawn shaping up through these stories as they find a home in the hearts of their readers.
Let us make compassion a movement by remembering we all have The Kindness Gene within us. Leaving you with this beautiful quote from Leo Buscaglia,
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
Anjali G Sharma, a TEDx speaker is a development sector professional, an acclaimed writer and a grassroots educator who is working to impact lives of girls from underserved communities to raise them on their aspirations and opportunities. She leads education initiatives at Charter for Compassion in India. In the past, she has had a corporate experience of more than a decade working in telecom sector in India and abroad. Carrying forward the corporate excellence, she now helps non-profits in the education space across various domains to maximize impact.
She was felicitated with the Women Achievers’ Award on International Women’s Day 2021 and the IBM award 2021 for “Making a Difference” for her contribution towards the cause of education.
She was also finalist at the prestigious Orange Flower Award by Womens’ Web in 2020 and 2021 for writing on social impact and Women at Work. Her work has appeared in the anthology “Escape Velocity (2018)” by Write &Beyond and “Write in Power (2021)” by Hidden Pen Collective and “My Act of Heart (2022)” She contributes regularly to various online and print publications writing on social and topical issues.
She feels strongly towards reinforcing the idea of compassion being synonymous with courage and making compassion a worldwide movement for everyone to embrace. Connect with her here.