“A compassionate community is an uncomfortable community! A community that is uncomfortable when anyone is homeless or hungry. Uncomfortable if every child isn’t loved and given rich opportunities to grow and thrive. Uncomfortable when as a community we don’t treat our neighbors as we would wish to be treated.”

— Karen Armstrong, Founder of the global movement, The Charter for Compassion

In a Compassionate Community, the needs of all our neighbors are acknowledged, the well-being of the entire community is a priority, and all people are treated with respect and dignity. We are all motivated by compassion to take responsibility for and care for each other. A community where compassion is fully alive is a thriving, resilient community that is moved by empathy to take action and confront crises with innovative solutions. The lack of affordable housing in Brunswick and our surrounding communities is such a crisis and it affects a wide array of our neighbors and friends – those who are unhoused, those who are close to being unhoused, those who are not able to find places to rent they can afford, those who have ever struggled to find a rental or pay their mortgage….many of us have faced challenging times or a crisis that has made our housing situation unstable. We think we can all learn from hearing one another’s stories and build our resolve as a community to take action.

There is no better way to bring our community together than through a meal. The simple act of sharing food builds trust which creates a willingness to openly share ideas and stories. And that is the idea behind an upcoming series of free community meals on the theme of A Place to Live: We All Need It!

These meals are being hosted by All Saints Parish, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Unitarian Universalist Church, and First Parish Church, but are being supported by an interfaith group of faith communities and community members – united around the idea of building a compassionate community where everyone has housing. We can agree that we all need a place to live, and that safe shelter -a home – is critical to that dignity. We believe that every person needs and deserves housing and that is the kind of community we want to live in.

The meals will be held on the first Sundays of the month from February through May, and everyone is welcome. On the day when the Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program (MCHPP) and the Gathering Place are closed, we’ll provide a warm meal and an opportunity to talk with our neighbors. Everyone is invited to come to listen, and to share food and stories about our experiences with housing, and how we can build a more compassionate community. Bring a friend, particularly ones who may not be familiar with the housing issues in our area. Please join us at 12:30 pm on Sunday, Feb. 2, at the St John’s Community Center, 43 Pleasant St.; Sunday, March 1, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Middle St.; Sunday, April 5, at The Gathering Place, 5 Tenney Way hosted by St Paul’s Episcopal Church; and Sunday, May 3, at the Pilgrim House at First Parish Church, 9 Cleaveland St., all in Brunswick.

The Charter for Compassion has been affirmed by millions of individuals and communities in over 50 countries across the globe. It states in part: The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. Let’s join this international movement and be a more compassionate community.

 Mary O’Brien is a volunteer at The Gathering Place, Mary Connolly is the executive director.

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