Basalt determined to show some compassion |

Basalt determined to show some compassion

Little Basalt has emerged as a big player in an international effort that has been endorsed by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.

Basalt became the second community in the world this year to join the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. It was at the forefront of an effort that has attracted such diverse participants as Seattle and Appleton, Wis., and intrigued London, New Delhi and Cairo, Egypt, as candidate cities that are working toward membership.

Basalt’s participation is significant because it shows how the concept appeals to a diversity of interests, said Ari Cowan, co-director of the International Institute for Compassionate Cities in Bellevue, Wash. Once Basalt joined the effort, Cowan said, his organization decided “we ought to stress this to show what even a small community can do.”

The concept behind the compassionate city campaign is simple. Civic leaders try to instill The Golden Rule into all aspects of life – from the playgrounds of the local schools to the meeting rooms at Town Hall and places of business. The mantra for the movement is something parents typically try to teach their children starting at an early age: “Always treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

Rev. Marie Gasau of the Basalt United Community Methodist Church got the town involved. She was channel surfing on television one evening when she heard something about the effort. It struck a chord with her because she is fed up with the “rancor” that dominates U.S. society these days, from politics to business to day-to-day living.

“I was looking for this,” Gasau said. “Something that was unifying and positive. So many people feel hopelessness and despair.”

Gasau got kids in her religious studies class interested in the concept. They made a pitch to the Town Council to sign Basalt up as a compassionate city, which was

accomplished on March 8. Now there are six member communities and another 39 candidates.

Folks in the Aspen area are never at a loss for feel-good movements. What’s to prevent this from being the good cause de jour that is quickly forgotten?

Cowan said the movement is picking up momentum rather than fizzling. “There’s a hunger there,” he said. People are asking themselves, “Operating without compassion – how’s that going?” he said.

Gasau dares to think big. She sees the Charter for Compassion as a tool to lead the country out of the lingering tough economic times. On the local level, she sees it as a useful tool to make sure people in need in the Roaring Fork Valley are getting help from those who can give it.

Basalt is celebrating its enlistment in the compassionate cities campaign today with an awards ceremony, speakers and activities at Lions Park from 3 to 6 p.m. Cowan came to Basalt to help with the celebration. Gasau and Cowan encourage anyone who wants to help change the approach to life’s problems to attend and learn more about the effort.

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