Inspiration through Compassion

The Way of Compassion Foundation will present the first annual Compassion Film Festival Aug. 17-18 at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.

“We want to highlight and celebrate actual people making a difference in our community and beyond,” said John Bruna, founder of the Way of Compassion Foundation. “With all the bad news in the world, we miss all the people doing good.”

The event will recognize people and organizations that are actively engaged in compassionate activities, inspiring others to do the same, through film, workshops and hands-on activities.

“We want people to feel like they can do something, they can make a difference,” said Aaron Taylor, director of the foundation. “The event will highlight the compassion and the compassionate actions that bring people together in the world.”

The festival will include compassion workshops, music, film shorts, feature films and panel discussions.

“We are showcasing people making real positive change, and hoping that people who come to the festival are inspired to get involved,” Taylor said.

There will be two paid workshops, with the Compassion For Self: Mental and Emotional Health workshop starting things off Friday at 3 p.m. The goal of the workshop is personal empowerment through mental and emotional self-management skills. The second workshop is Wisdom and Tools of Compassion, which Bruna will teach at 9 a.m. The morning workshop will focus on the skillful use of compassion to build resiliency in difficult times.

“We are having workshops to help give people the tools to find common ground, so they can be kinder to one another and themselves,” Bruna said. Tickets for the workshops are $20 a person.

Two free workshops also will be offered at the festival. The Start with Hello program begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The program first began with the Sandy Hook Promise, a mission to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge, so no other parent experiences the loss of a child. At 1 p.m. Saturday, Forgiveness and Nonviolent Communications will offer an opportunity to learn a practice of forgiveness and in-depth ways to give second chances through the forgive and forget exercises.

Live music at Bonnie Fischer Park behind the Third Street Center includes performances by Smythe & Taylor Friday at 5 p.m., Frank Martin at noon, and Let Them Roar at 5 p.m. Saturday.

“The musicians songwriting very much honors positive change and compassion, and removes suffering in the world,” Taylor said. All music performances are free.

More then a dozen film shorts from Iran, Canada, Mexico, Nepal and other countries will be shown Saturday, with one session at 10:30 a.m. and another at 3 p.m. Admission to sessions will be $15 for each event. Local and student-film shorts will be screened Sunday at noon during a free event.

Two feature films will light up the screen, with opening film Skid Row Marathon taking the screen at 7 p.m. Friday. The 2017 film follows a criminal court judge who starts a running club on Los Angeles’ notorious skid row. They follow four runners’ rise from the streets to running marathons around the world. Tickets are $20 for the film and include a discussion and Q&A with Rafael Cabrera, one of the runners documented in the film, and Gabi Hayes, the producer.

The closing film at 1:30 p.m. Sunday will be Love and Bananas, which documents the 480-mile mission to rescue Noi Na, a 70-year-old, partially blind trekking elephant, bringing her to freedom. A discussion with the producer will follow the screening at 3 p.m. Tickets also are $20 for the screenings.

The main event of the festival will be a panel discussion titled, Compassion is a Verb. Five speakers from youth, local, regional, national and international organizations will present at the festival. Representatives of the organizations include Somy Ali of No More Tears, Maria Duenas of Carbondale’s Valley Settlement Project, Lt. Col. Dick Merritt of Huts for Vets, Reba Winsinger of Days for Girls, and Macy Rae Klein of Project Reasons.

“We picked people who are making a difference in the world in ways you or I could,” Bruna said.

Macy Rae Klein, 17, will speak about Project Reasons, a nonprofit she started a little over a year ago. Project reasons is dedicated to saving lives of students and adults from suicide. The project focuses around Reasons, a worksheet that encourages a person to think about the people in their life that love and care about them, and the Pledge, a promise to life. Both of which Klein has made her resolve, sending bracelets around the world to those who have completed the reasons and the pledged like her.

“Compassion is a very selfless thing, it makes you take time out of your busy daily life, asking you to help another person,” said Klein about the Compassion Festivals theme. “I want to help make compassion a verb rather then a noun.”

Lt. Col. Dick Merritt, a member of the board of directors for Huts for Vets, will represent his organization as part of the main event.

“ I’m looking forward to it,” Merritt said. “We have 22 vets committing suicide a day, so our program reaches out to vets who need compassion.”

“This is the beginning of a cooperation with Carbondale, weaving compassion into the community,” Bruna said. “Ongoing activities through the year, that will culminate in the celebration at the festival every year.”

Carbondale mayor Dan Richardson will open the event Friday at 6:30 p.m. before lights dim for the first film.

Events are $15-$30 per person. If you plan on attending multiple events you can purchase an all-access pass for $100.

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