Diana, the Compassionate Princess of Wales

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I still remember what I did on that sad day. It was the 31st of August 1997. Our son was just a baby in Great Britain. I brought him downstairs in the morning, strapped him to his seat and  switched the television on. The pictures were beamed live on BBC TV News from Paris, Diana, Princess of Wales had died in hospital, at the age of 36,  following a car crash, in a tunnel. The Alma tunnel lies beneath the Pont d’Alma (Alma bridge) in Paris, France. It was such a shock, Diana, (Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair had described her as the ‘People’s Princess’), was no more. She had thrown herself into her work with several charities, following the much publicized divorce with Prince Charles. She had a special place in the hearts of the British people. They called her a style icon, a caring and compassionate human being,  someone who could easily connect with ordinary people.

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The death of a Princess, shocked not only Great Britain but people across the world. She was so well known and loved by so many. The people of Great Britain found it difficult to comprehend that Diana was no more. On the day she died, Christian Leaders in Great Britain released messages and prayers to the British media – here is the message from Lord Carey who was Archbishop of Canterbury in 1997. Even Christian leaders were all stunned by the death of Diana. The Christian Post published an article that Princess Diana had deeper Christian Faith than people believed – this was according to a special ‘Songs of Praise’ TV Special on BBC Television in Great Britain.

“I think she had a stronger faith than people give her credit for,” said Mike Whitlam, former director-general of the British Red Cross, according to The Telegraph newspaper. “She wanted to put love where there was hatred, and make a huge difference to people’s lives so that they could live a better life. When you talk to people about making the world a better place, there are not many people who think it’s doable. She did.”

At the time I was an educator as well as a writer and I received a press invitation to follow the funeral proceedings from the Church House in Westminster. The Church House is the home of the headquarters of the Church of England, occupying the south end of Dean’s Yard, next to Westminster Abbey in London. I remember getting up very early and making my way to Westminster tube station. I thought I was early but when I left the tube station, all I could see were a sea of faces. The area surrounding Westminster Abbey was packed with people behind the barriers – even at the time of the morning. Security was tight. There were hushed tones on the streets of London, people waited patiently for several hours for the procession to pass by them. Some people had camped over night.

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The day before the funeral, my wife and I went to Kensington Palace and laid flowers by the main gate. The place was awash with flowers, tributes, scarves, flags, photographs. It was as if the whole nation was grieving. The London Underground was heaving with people, making their way to Kensington Palace, to remember this very special Princess. I got caught up in the moment. Church House was packed with the international media. I guess representatives of every single network from around the world were in that room. All the American networks were there. At one briefing I found myself seated next to the UK Channel 4 Television News anchor, Jon Snow (the longest serving news presenter at Channel 4), and we got talking about Diana. Everyone in the room was talking about her. She lived a life in pictures and words. The funeral was beamed onto a huge screen in Church House.

A poignant moment was when Elton John sang ‘Candle in the Wind,’ at the service in Westminster Abbey next door. He had changed the words, in order to pay a moving tribute to Princess Diana at one point he sang ‘now you belong to heaven.’ He also sang that she flew on ‘the wings of compassion.’ The well known lyricist, Bernie Taupin had written new words to the song and added a title:  ‘Goodbye England’s Rose.’ The Guinness Book of Records said that the song “Candle in the Wind 1997” is the second highest selling single of all time (behind Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” from 1942) and is the highest-selling single since charts began in the 1950s. It became the best selling single in UK Chart history.

Here Charles Spencer, recounts losing his sister, Princess Diana, at the Westminster Abbey service. He spoke movingly about his sister in his eulogy: “Without your God-given sensitivity we would be immersed in greater ignorance at the anguish of AIDS and H.I.V. sufferers, the plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, the random destruction of landmines. ” Charles Spencer spoke of her compassion: “Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. “

I remember coming out of the Church House and going past the back entrance of Westminster Abbey after the funeral service. Elton John’s Rolls Royce was parked by the back entrance – Elton John and George Michael were standing by the car, they looked shocked and were speaking in hushed voices about Diana.

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People were wailing outside Westminster Abbey, many were overcome with emotion. I did feel a sense of sadness that Great Britain had lost someone who reached out in compassion to the vulnerable, the socially excluded and the down trodden. I wrote a tribute to her and mentioned the word ‘downtrodden,’ in a letter published in the Daily Mail in London, before her funeral service. I felt she genuinely had a heart for the downtrodden and really wanted to lift them up. This was compassionate leadership in action. Diana had said she had come to serve the outcasts, the marginalized, those who had no hope.

She may have been born into a world of privilege and class but I do believe that Diana, Princess of Wales had a compassionate heart. I remember in the 1980s when HIV/Aids was always in the news. There was a real stigma attached to Aids,  fueled by the media. In the 1980s I flew down to Sri Lanka on holiday. While I was in Colombo, I heard that an old school friend who had lived in France for a while in the 1980s had contracted Aids and had returned to Sri Lanka, to spend his last few months at home. I wanted to see him – I telephoned him at his home in Colombo and spoke to him several times. But my friends urged me not to visit his home. They said all kinds of things to me – they said it was contagious. I felt a sadness that I heeded their advice and didn’t visit my friend before he passed away. It was misguided advice. When I returned back to Great Britain, I read the newspaper report of Princess Diana visiting the hospital beds of AIDs patients, holding their hands and speaking to them with compassion.

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I saw this photograph in 1987 in the United Kingdom. Here was Princess Diana shaking hands with an AIDS patient without wearing gloves. In April 1987, the Princess opened the UK’s first purpose built HIV/Aids unit that exclusively cared for patients infected with the virus, at London Middlesex Hospital. In front of the international media, Diana shook the hand of a man suffering with the illness. She publicly challenged the notion that HIV/Aids was passed from person to person by touch.

Earl Spencer had mentioned the fact that when Diana visited Nepal she went into a leper clinic and there again she challenged people’s ideas and fears about lepers – that they were ‘untouchables.’ Here is a picture of Diana touching lepers in Nepal, the Princess was Patron of the Leprosy Mission and visited Leprosy clinics in India, Nepal, Zimbabwe and Nigeria. When you examine the photograph below, you can see the genuine compassion here, I think this photograph speaks volumes:

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People have also highlighted her work with the victims of landmines. She visited danger zones where the Halo Trust were involved in de-mining ,including Angola.

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A year after Princess Diana’s death I was involved with some Public Relations and Marketing work with the Sri Lankan test (cricket) team who had arrived in London to play just one test match with the England team at the Oval Cricket Grounds. The players got talking about Princess Diana during conversations at the hotel. I said I would try to contact Earl Spencer, her brother who lived on the Althrop Estate, the family seat. Now Charles Spencer was a huge cricket fan. I believe he played cricket at Eton and Oxford. Charles Spencer is a Patron of the Northamptonshire Cricket Club in the United Kingdom. He was also an on-air correspondent with NBC News in the United States of America, from 1986 to 1995, working for the network’s morning programme, Today, and NBC Nightly News.

I was pleasantly surprised when I contacted his office at Althrop Manor – Earl Spencer extended a warm invitation for the cricketers to visit Althorp – they were the first ever international test cricket team to be invited to Althrop Manor, to pay their respects at Diana’s Memorial. The team bus made it’s way to Althrop Park. We were invited into Althrop Manor by Earl Spencer’s Private Secretary and afterwards we made our way to Princess Diana’s grave, situated in the grounds. Her grave is on an island in the middle of a lake known as the Round Oval, which is located within the Althorp Park garden.

The grave of Diana, Princess of Wales on an island at Althrop House

 

The island where Diana, Princess of Wales is buried at Althrop House

I just thanked God for her short life and for her service to others and said a prayer as we stood on the other side of the island. Princess Diana changed the way people treated and viewed those who had HIV/Aids, her work with the Leprosy Mission – which is an international Christian charity  and the work she undertook with the Centrepoint charity in London so impacted on the lives of people.  It was a very poignant moment for all of us. There is also a memorial to Diana within the grounds of Althrop Park.

Memorial to Diana Princess of Wales at Althrop House

The memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop House

The memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop House

Arjuna Ranatunga, Captain of the Sri Lanka cricket test team and family visit the grave of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1998.

In the photograph above, Arjuna Ranatunga, Captain of the Sri Lanka cricket test team and family make their way to the grave of Diana, Princess of Wales at Althrop, in 1998. The test team signed a cricket bat for Charles Spencer and also presented a book of poems on Princess Diana. And so we said goodbye to England’s Rose.

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I think it is great that the sons of Prince Charles and Lady Diana – Prince William and Prince Harry have inherited that spirit of compassion and her legacy of love and kindness. They are showing Compassionate Leadership in the work they have thrown themselves into – in the UK and abroad. The first charity that Prince William decided to support in 2005 was Centrepoint which was a charity reaching out to homeless people in Great Britain. When they were children, Princess Diana used to take them to meet homeless people at Centrepoint when she was Patron of the charity. Prince Harry is well known for creating the Invictus Games in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in sports including wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, and indoor rowing. The games were named after Invictus, in Latin the word means “unconquered” or “undefeated”, the event was inspired by the Warrior Games held in the United States of America. Long may their work aimed at helping and supporting the vulnerable continue.

Ivan Corea

 

Photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales courtesy of Wikipedia, Huffington Post. Photographs of Prince William, Prince Harry  and Westminster Abbey, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Film Clips of Elton John at the funeral service of Diana Princess of Wales and Charles Spencer, Christian Leaders on the death of the Princess, courtesy of youtube.

Some information courtesy of Wikipedia.

All photographs of Diana’s grave and Althrop Memorial copyright of  © Ivan Corea 2019

The Christian Post article on Diana and her Christian faith: https://www.christianpost.com/news/princess-diana-had-deeper-christian-faith-than-people-believed-new-tv-special.html

If you are ever in Great Britain and you are planning to visit Althorp Estate – although visitors are not allowed on the island – here is the link: https://spencerofalthorp.com/visit/

 

 

My Brother’s Keeper, My Sister’s Keeper

 

In Genesis, in the first book of the Bible, Cain kills his brother Abel, God confronts him: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis Chapter 4: verse 9) Cain was meant to be responsible for his brother, to look after him and make sure he was safe. Cain, however, chose not to be responsible for his brother and murdered him. Jesus in his teachings said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

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When an expert of the law asked Jesus: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus goes on to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The central figure of the story was a Samaritan who would not associate himself or herself with Jewish people. They could not stand each other. Here was Jesus breaking through all boundaries of race, color, creed. It was the Samaritan who helped the Jewish person who had been mugged and robbed when he was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was left half dead on that road. The man who looked after him, took him to an inn, paid for his medical expenses and for his accommodation was a Samaritan. The priest and the Levite, walked by on the other side. When Jesus asked the expert of the law which of the three men was the ‘neighbor,’ the man answered: ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ (Luke Chapter 10: verses 36-37).

There have been times when I have seen homeless people in Redding, California and like the priest and the Levite, I was too busy and walked by on the other side. There also have been times in my life for instance,when an encounter with a homeless person on the streets of Tokyo in Japan, prompted me to bring back everything the hotel offered for the guests and bought supplies, (sadly someone had opened my bag on the way back to the United States and had taken some of the things!) and gave them away – together with my own possessions, to a person who was reaching out to the homeless in Redding, because God spoke to my heart and challenged me, asking me when I was walking on a street in Tokyo: ‘who is your neighbor?’ There was also a pastor in Redding, California who called for supplies – toothpaste, soap, facecloths, etc. She distributed these supplies to the homeless. This pastor led by example – rising up and helping others in the community, in His name.

My thoughts go back to my own brother, Vernon. We grew up in Colombo, Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka. When I think of my brother I remember the seven stitches I have – just above my eyebrow! As children we were chasing each other, I stumbled and fell and hit my forehead on a flower pot in the garden. I had to be rushed to hospital as I was bleeding profusely and the surgeon stitched me up! As children and indeed as adults, my brother and I have had our differences but there has always been a profound sense of brotherly love. Here is a picture of us as children on a beach in Colombo, my brother smiles to the camera and there am I looking out for the waves behind us, advancing to the sea shore! I keep telling my brother (to this day) that I always had to look out for him!

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I can never forget his love for me, his older brother, when I was dying, as a result of typhoid fever of 105 F – rolling in bed, clutching my stomach, in excruciating pain. Every night my brother chose not to sleep in his bed, instead he picked up a mat, he came and slept by my bedside and held my hand which was dangling from the bed. A brother’s keeper. My brother didn’t say much but his actions spoke louder than words. Talk is cheap but when you love your neighbor as yourself, your actions go along way to raise people up, change lives. I so felt his compassionate heart. Once when my brother was doing some electrical work in our home in Colombo, most probably he was repairing something, suddenly he had a massive electric shock and was flung several feet high – I rushed to him because I didn’t want anything happening to him. Mercifully, by the grace of God, we were both saved – from the typhoid fever and the electric shock and we are both alive to tell the tale.

Matt Maher, wrote this beautiful song ‘Hold Us Together,’ from his CD ‘Alive Again.’ His lyrics speak to the heart:

‘And love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm. And I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone…..’

The other song that really reminds me of my brother Vernon is: ‘He Ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.’ I have carried him when he was in his nappies. He certainly wasn’t heavy, or a burden, because he was my brother. Nor for that matter was my sister Ouida who joined us a few years later.

We are called to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, not just to our siblings but to those who are in need, people who need to be helped and supported, raised up, to love our neighbor as ourselves – at home, in our community, in our places of work.

John Maxwell wrote: ‘When you stop loving your people, stop leading your people.’ In reply, itohankadiri observed: ‘You can only influence people who connect with you, you have to have love for the people within your influence to transform them and move them from where they are, to where they connect through a shared vision. Love is a shared value which makes this transition possible.’ Maxwell was right. Leaders need to love their people. It also means you need to be your brother’s keeper, your sister’s keeper, even in a business, corporate setting.

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Leaders who come alongside their co-workers and make sure they are alright, will raise up confidence, loyalty, trust. A happy workforce is a productive workforce. When I was an educator back in the United Kingdom, I was so grateful to a former Headteacher who responded to me as a human being, when I was going through a really tough time in life. My welfare was important to her. The Head invited me to her office for a cup of tea, (some years ago), she just sat down and listened to my heart.  She put me on a 4 day week on full pay, reduced my teaching workload and said: ‘Go home to your family.’ I wasn’t just a ‘number’ to her. She didn’t display any ruthlessness, on the contrary, my boss had compassion for me. As an employee my well being mattered to her. When I returned back to work to a 5 day week, I felt so invigorated and gave not only of my time to the school but also threw myself into the local community, involving my workplace in projects that were of worth and value to both school and community.

Years later, the leader of the local council and the Mayor held these projects up as exemplars as to what a successful partnership should be like – between an educational institution and the local community. The Mayor celebrated the success of these projects in the Town Hall and gave out Council Awards. The school was mentioned in the British parliament. A leadership shift happened. That all came from a single act of compassion and kindness, extended by a caring leader who had empathy for her workforce and led ‘from within,’ with her head and her heart. When you raise people up, you also raise up your entire workforce, you lift up morale and even the happiness index of your company or organization. That is the hallmark of a compassionate leader.

Jesus asked ‘which one was the neighbor?’ The reply was ‘the one who had mercy on him.’

Ivan Corea

 

Film clips of Matt Maher’s ‘ Hold Us Together,’ song and ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my brother,’ song by the Hollies – courtesy of YouTube.

Picture of the Good Samaritan courtesy of free Bible images.

Photographs courtesy of Pexel and Pixaby

 

 

The Healing Power of Compassion and Forgiveness

George M. Nutwell III and Ivan Corea come from different perspectives from within the Church. However, they are at one with the view that Jesus was a Compassionate Leader who healed out of compassion and readily forgave others. They examine the healing power of compassion and forgiveness, from Christ’s perspective:

THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

George M. Nutwell III

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Like many others, I had always understood forgiveness to be a good thing, albeit difficult to do in many cases. I had always heard it would bring peace to the forgiver and that makes sense since a grudge is heavy on the heart. But is that it? Is that all Jesus meant by forgiveness in the Lord’s Prayer? When I retired from the Foreign Service and decided to enter the prison ministry, I found that forgiveness and loving one’s enemies was a core issue facing many of the people locked up. Most of them have much to forgive. They also want to be forgiven and would like to be able to forgive themselves. I needed to uplift these men so where to begin?

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the first great story of forgiveness appears. Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and then spent time in prison, forgave his brothers. He said to them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Gen 50:20, NLT) Joseph saw the situation from a divine perspective. His brothers had been ignorant, and God had a higher plan. This event previewed Jesus’ crucifixion.

While on the cross, Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:24, NLT) Jesus was asking for the forgiveness of his persecutors on the grounds that they were ignorant and did not understand the higher plan. They were ignorant of God who St. John said is “love.” St. John explained further that “anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (I John 4:8, NLT) Is that not the reason for all evil-doing, an ignorance or lack of understanding of love.

Many of the men in prison have been abused and abandoned. They have no concept of unconditional or, as St. John called it, perfect love. For one who does not know love, how is he to be taught love? One will never learn through fear or punishment. They will also not learn through words alone. They can only learn through the act or example of love. Forgiveness is that act. That is why Jesus taught his followers to love one’s enemies. This included praying for them. He added that this is how God loves His children and in that act of divine love, perfection is revealed. “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, NIV) Forgiveness is the teacher that reveals perfection just like a piano teacher reveals it in a student.

The result of Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross was the conversion of the Roman Centurion, his own resurrection, and the saving example for all mankind. Earlier, in his ministry, people were healed of disease and sin after Jesus forgave them. I finally got it. There is spiritual power in forgiveness. All divine laws are backed by divine authority and power. When they are obeyed, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37, NLT)

As I began to share this spiritual law in my prison ministry, I witnessed individual resurrections. I saw people transformed by their forgiveness, and prayer, for those who had harmed them in the past. One example stands out above others. A man who had been in and out of prison over the years was suffering from physical and relationship issues. He did not ask for healing of those things. He asked to be healed of his feelings of hatred, anger and the desire for revenge against the many people who had hurt or betrayed him throughout his life. He had been kicked out of the house at thirteen and grew up on the streets using and selling drugs. He had been betrayed by family, even recently. He said, he could not sleep at night because all he could do is think about revenge. He asked, how can I overcome this problem? My answer – the spiritual law of forgiveness, taught and exemplified by Christ Jesus. I pointed him to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:38-48, where Jesus commands us to love and pray for our enemies. I suggested that he make a list of people who had hurt him over the years and begin praying for them daily. Such a prayer might include him forgiving them as Jesus did on the cross.

It might also include praying for them to know God and feel His Grace. He began this daily prayer activity. For the first week, he later said, he did not feel sincere, but he did it out of respect for me. When the next week came, he started to feel something in his heart. It was turning warm with love. By the end of that week his life began to change. He started to sleep well, and a reoccurring pain began to disappear. He began to receive letters from the outside after having not received any for eighteen months. He also got a visit from family and an old friend. He felt like he was going through a re-birth of some kind. He felt more humility and gratitude than ever before. Soon after, he went through a physical exam where he found out that a disease had disappeared that has been with him for years. He was feeling the divine power of love in his life as never before. He has since continued to grow spiritually and has shared his testimony with many in prison, spreading his light. It is quite possible that his transformation will lead to an earlier release in the future.

I have witnessed this same spiritual power in my own life and in the lives of family and friends. To forgive is to teach love. It shines the light that Jesus said is in all of us. Just imagine the results of obeying this spiritual law in your own life. What do you have to lose?

THE COMPASSIONATE JESUS

Ivan Corea

LEPER

“Jesus Wept.”

These words are two of the most powerful words in the New Testament. John Chapter 11:35 is the shortest verse in the Bible but these two words really give us an insight into His heart of compassion. There are those who think that compassion might be a weakness, a ‘soft skill.’ Not so. I want to put it to you that compassion is a powerful tool, in the hands of a leader. I do believe it is a leadership strength.

Jesus, in his time, saw the suffering in front of him. His friends – Mary and Martha who were sisters from Bethany, had sent word to Jesus that their sibling, Lazarus was ill. They were the three closest friends of Jesus. The sisters report goes like this: ‘Lazarus, the one you love is sick.’ Lazarus was dying. He was seriously ill. My mind goes back to a morning when I received a telephone call from my niece Rebecca in New Malden, in Surrey, in the United Kingdom.

My niece was crying on the phone, she told me my father was dying. She had called an ambulance and wanted me to come immediately. There was a problem, I lived two hours away from them and it meant a journey on the tube, on the underground, across London, from the other side of town. (It took me two hours to try to reach the side of my father, on the other hand, Jesus was across the river Jordan, about twenty miles from where Mary and Martha lived, it would have taken him at least a good day’s walk to reach their home). I sensed the urgency in the voice of my niece, she wanted me to come ‘right now.’ It would have been the same with Mary and Martha. I just dropped everything, dashed out of our home and took the tube. Fighting back the tears in a packed tube, I kept praying and recollected the times with my precious father, childhood in Sri Lanka, moments in India, new adventures in Great Britain, a wonderful visit to Washington D.C.

A smile broke out on my face when I remembered the time we visited Lucknow Zoo in India. I was standing behind my father and was flabbergasted to see a pickpocket before my eyes, trying to steal my father’s wallet. I lifted the pickpocket by the scruff of his neck, my father just said let him go and forgave him! That was a salutary lesson in forgiveness! Back in 1970s London, I went to see a rock group at the Roundhouse Theatre. My father travelled across London in his light blue Volkswagen ,to give me a ride back home to Upper Norwood. I don’t know how he found me that night, but he did. That was my father. He was concerned for my safety. He thought I had gone to see a play! I loved my father, unconditionally, and I ran to be by his side. Sadly, by the time I reached my beloved father, he had passed away. Dad had ‘gone home.’ As I stood by his bedside touching his lifeless form, I was able to thank God for his life and I committed my earthly father’s spirit into my Heavenly Father’s loving hands. I was reminded of Larry Norman’s lyrics:

‘And now you’ve gone, so far away
I hope I’ll see you again someday
But if I don’t, I hope I’ll see you in heaven.’

So, in the instance of his close friend Lazarus, what did Jesus do? He waited for two more days before rushing to his side. He intentionally delayed his trip. When He heard that Lazarus was dying, Jesus said: ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son will be glorified through it.’ (John Chapter 11) Jesus knew what was going to happen. He went on to say, ‘our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ Jesus waited because He wanted Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples and the people around him to experience something so profound. It was a huge step of faith they would have to take, to place their total trust in Him. Jesus had such compassion – he wanted them to see his power over death, it was a picture into the future when He himself would be raised from the dead on the third day. This was miraculous healing, He had the power to raise the dead.

Jesus saw people suffering. Their heartbreak was His heartbreak. He had genuine compassion for others. Jesus just had to touch them, and they were healed. The woman with a hemorrhage touched the hem of His garment and was healed. (Mathew Chapter 19: 18-26) Jesus had compassion equal to His power. His compassion was such that he dared to do what no other person in his day would have done – He touched and healed a leper. During that era, lepers lived in colonies, set apart from the rest of the local community. They were reduced to begging and had to shout ‘unclean, unclean,’ to warn others when they were travelling – people would avoid them. Some threw stones at them. They suffered banishment from their friends and families. People would not dare go anywhere near a leper.

I was a teenager travelling with my family across India. We were travelling to New Delhi. As soon as we came out of the railway station, I saw a leper who was begging in the heat and dust, right outside the crowded railway station. This was the first time I had ever come across a leper. Although I gave him some money, I did not touch him. Lepers were treated as ‘untouchables.’ What did Jesus do? He touched and healed them, out of compassion for them. He restored them to communion again. The leper said: ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ What was His response? In Mathew Chapter 8 verse 3: ‘Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.’ He said, ‘I am willing.’ He turns to the leper and says, ‘Be clean,’ and he was immediately cleansed of his leprosy. Jesus moved by compassion, healed others. ‘When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed them.’ (Mathew 14:14)

When I was growing up on the island of Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka, I drank some contaminated water and developed typhoid fever. One night I had 105 F fever and was dying. My stomach was on fire. I was rolling on the bed in pain. My younger brother slept on a mat by my bedside, holding my hand in the night. It was at that point of severe, excruciating pain that I cried out to Jesus and said, ‘please heal me.’ At the time I wasn’t a practicing Christian.

My family were church going people, but I hadn’t made a conscious decision to accept Jesus as my Savior. But He heard my cry. I started getting better. It was a gradual process. I spent six months in bed, I weighed about 98 lbs. It was an absolute miracle and I am alive to tell the tale. Healing is real. I have experienced the Compassionate Jesus. His compassion, his love, his healing, is available to you. He said: ‘according to your faith, so be it unto you.’ He bore our sicknesses, so we don’t have to. By His stripes we are healed. ‘I am willing,’ said Jesus to the leper. ‘Be clean.’

Marini De Livera the compassionate lawyer from Sri Lanka, now a US State Department ‘Woman of Courage.’

marine de livera

Marini De Livera,  A pro bono attorney with a degree in speech and drama from Trinity College London, is an incredible woman – from the island of Sri Lanka. She was honored in Washington DC at an event marking International Women’s Day. Marini is a compassionate lawyer. She was one of 10 recipients of the 2019 International Women of Courage Award presented by the US State Department to women who have risked their lives for peace. She was presented the award by First Lady Melania Trump, in the present of the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Speaking at the award ceremony, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Marini De Livera “a crusader against child exploitation.” De Livera has served as the chairperson of Sri Lanka’s child welfare agency, the National Child Protection Authority, and now runs Sisters at Law, an advocacy group for impoverished women and children. She has championed human rights in Sri Lanka.

Marini de Livera is the Founder and Chairperson of Sisters at Law, where she serves as a pro bono lawyer for women and child victims of crime and promotes alternative care for children trapped in orphanages. She uses the visual arts and drama to create legal literacy among the public. She has her own street theater group that travels around the country performing plays related to human rights issues.

Now in its 13th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award recognizes ten women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice.

The other recipients of the award are: Razia Sultana of Bangladesh, Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma, Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti, Mama Maggie of Egypt, Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan, Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland, Olivera Lakic of Montenegro, Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru, and Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania.

What really caught my eye was Marini was working with one parent families who for example had children with disabilities – some mothers for reasons of poverty, exhaustion, inability to cope with life, were handing over their children to orphanages.

According to UNICEF, over 80 percent of the 20,000 children in Sri Lanka’s child-care institutions, including orphanages, have at least one parent. Marini de Livera feels that orphanages should be the last resort for children who have at least one parents. She promotes alternative care for these children in Sri Lanka. Her actions are driven by compassion for these children.

Speaking to National Public Radio in the United States, Marini said: ‘I’m working on a street theater [program] to create awareness for parents [and encourage them] not to send their children to orphanages. I’m going to show that family is the place for the child. In Sri Lanka, we have a lot of “social orphans” where they have both parents, but the children are suffering in orphanages.’ Marini added: ‘Some of the mothers are capable of looking after their children, but they’ve handed over their child to an overcrowded orphanage. I’m thinking of giving parenting skills training to these mothers and economically empowering them, finding them a nice home and settling the children with them.’

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First Lady Melania Trump speaking at the event said: “Courage is what divides those who only talk about change from those who actually act to change,” Mrs. Trump said. “Courage takes sacrifice, bravery and humility. It is the ability to put others first.” She said courage is one of the qualities we need most in society. US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said: “We’re here today to honor women of courage from all around the world who are standing tall in the fact of extraordinary adversity. Here at the State Department, stories like these motivate and inspire us. Our colleagues in the Office of Global Women’s Issues work to integrate women’s empowerment into our foreign policy.”

Ivan Corea

 

Here are the biographies of the 10 finalists of the US State Department ‘Women of Courage Awards,’ including Marini De Livera’s biography:

https://www.state.gov/s/gwi/iwoc/2019/bio/index.htm

Walt Disney’s Legacy – It all started with a Compassionate Mouse

 Walt Disney was a genius. He was born on December 5, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States of America. His parents were Elias Disney‍ and Flora. He was a man of vision, with big dreams. He didn’t just live in a world of dreams, he actively set out to make them happen. Those dreams have impacted on the lives of millions of children, young people and adults all over the world – even in some of the poorest nations of the earth. You don’t have to be physically in Disneyland – you can be transported into Walt Disney’s magical world by just reading a comic book or playing with a Disney soft toy or by just looking at a picture of Mickey Mouse. As children we  clamored for all things Disney, but we didn’t have access to them. I recollect they weren’t even available in stores in Colombo, Sri Lanka, certainly not anything from America back then.  My Dad bought us three Disney toothbrush holders – Mickey, Minnie and Donald. Just by looking at the figures as we brushed our teeth, we were reminded of these cartoon characters.

micket toothebrushI was born on an island in the Indian Ocean called  Ceylon, it is now called Sri Lanka. We didn’t have the funds as a family to travel from Ceylon to Disney in Anaheim, California in the 1960s or 1970s. But that did not stop us from dreaming about Disney’s characters. There was no television in 1960s Ceylon. However Disney films were screened in cinemas in Colombo, from time to time. Our favorite was ‘Mary Poppins,’ starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The film released in 1964 was directed by Robert Stevenson and produced by Walt Disney. It received 13 Oscar nominations and won 5 Oscars. After seeing the film in Colombo, we learnt a new word: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

 Back in the 1960s there was a travelling book salesman who would come to our home with a suitcase strapped to the back of his bicycle. This ingenious entrepreneur would bring a selection of books with him. My grandfather was a voracious reader so there was a ready made target market in our home! The travelling salesman would go house to house, visiting homes – inside that suitcase was a treasure trove of books and yes comic books. My parents couldn’t even afford to give us pocket money but our grandfather, out of the kindness of his heart, would buy us a few comic books. There were many power outages, sometimes daily ‘power cuts’ as we used to call them when we were growing up in Colombo – we would stick a candle on a tin and read these books!

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That’s when we first came across the magic of Disney on an island in the Indian Ocean, far removed from the magical kingdom built by Walt Disney in Anaheim in Southern California, in the United States of America.

We seem to have handed down our love for Disney to our children. Our son was born in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. By that time the market was flooded with books, DVDs, CD music, cartoons on the television networks that he could watch and experience the magic of Disney. Charin first came across Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, Pluto, Scrooge and all the lovable Disney characters, when he was about three or four years old in the 1990s.

Charin was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Autism has been defined as a ‘complex developmental disability’ appearing in the first three years of life. We bought him Disney videos and he loved them. He used to giggle with laughter and as some children with autism like to do, he used to wind and re-wind the video to the funny parts and look at the scenes over and over again – and scream with laughter. Those Disney pictures stayed inside him.

Charin fell in love with Disney long before he visited Florida. Even though Charin had withdrawn into his own world he was still very visual – Chari thinks differently- in pictures and numbers. Temple Grandin the leading US animal behavior expert who has autism once said: ‘I think in pictures. My mind is like Google images.’ It fits in very well with what Walt Disney imagined, Walt Disney said: “Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language.”

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Charin at first was not aware of Disneyland in Florida – he had watched all the videos. Our son is a whizz on computers and as he kept looking at websites he came across the Disney websites and then he kept telling us ‘I want to go to Florida.’ That would be his ‘dream holiday,’ A holiday of a lifetime. Finally, we were able to fulfil that promise to our precious son. Life is hard for him and for us but we thank God we were able to use some unexpected money via an ISA which came our way to take him to Florida. It brought joy to his heart.  Walt Disney was absolutely right. Charin was transported into a magical world – it was truly awe-inspiring for him. He loved every minute of it. Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Blizzard Beach…….Charin has been there, done it, worn the t-shirt. Charin had fallen in love with the world of Walt Disney.

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Meanwhile we had heard favorable reports from other British families with autism about their experiences in Florida. People were blogging about it, talking about it. During our holiday to Disneyland in Florida, we were able to present Mickey and Minnie Mouse with a very special Gold Autism Award for spreading that magic to families with autism from the UK. The award was presented to the Vice-President of Disney, Greg Hale, at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Charin was also invited to present the award to Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. He was absolutely thrilled.

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Many more families with autism are travelling to Disneyland in Florida, to experience that magic. We had prepared him for the journey with a visual timetable. We contacted the airport authorities, the travel company and the airline. Families with autism can never ever take anything for granted. Some young people with autism have a fear of the unknown. Charin wants to know exactly what is going to happen next. When help and support is forthcoming, it really makes it an easier task for families with autism to travel whether it is local, national or international travel. In the past we have worked very closely with Orlando International Airport and Sanford International Airport and the airlines, with regards to families with autism travelling with them. Our campaigning days are over but we were grateful for the opportunity to share with people about the travel needs of families who have children or young people with autism, after all they are paying customers too. On a recent visit we were thrilled to see cast members with disabilities including cerebral palsy and autism being involved as employees – for example making announcements. That was wonderful to see them playing a role as cast members at Walt Disney World. Their lives were being valued by the Walt Disney Company. There are business benefits in employing people with disabilities.

We found the cast members at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California so helpful and supportive. We recently visited Disney in California, the cast member at Guest Relations took her time to explain everything to us and to our son. She did not rush us and we were grateful for the time taken and the care given to a family with autism. She looked into our son’s eyes, gave him eye contact and spoke to him, personally, about the day. I have to place on record that it was exemplary customer service. That was our experience.

Charin is into all things hi-tech, he loved Epcot and the hi-tech gadgets. On our  2012 trip to Orlando, we visited Typhoon Beach for the first time and Charin enjoyed every minute of it – although he made a beeline to safety when he saw the six foot wave coming his way! Charin enjoyed the Phineas and Ferb’s agent’s mission at Epcot. He felt like an agent and took the assignment very seriously. Our son was rather scared of the faster rides so anything slow was his cup of tea! His favorite place is Magic Kingdom, he loved to get lost in it. This is where Walt Disney’s ‘magic’ came alive for Charin – whether it was the afternoon parade.(he even danced with his mother following the back of the parade), or Toy Story, Stitch, Star Wars, Soaring, the amazing Castle and all the other characters. It was almost like being on a continuous film set for our son. He enjoyed this constant film reel of pictures and characters.

Charin was fascinated by Walt Disney’s life and he wanted to return to Hollywood Studios to see Walt Disney’s office, his first drawings of Mickey Mouse and his desk.
It was amazing how Charin was able to make the connections between the creator and the creation. It was a striking visual picture for him.

It all started with a Mouse. But the legacy of that mouse has brought the magic, the enjoyment, the laughter, the sense of awe and wonderment even into the life of a young person with autism.

Joy is a fruit of the spirit, when you walk into the Magic Kingdom or any other Disney Park you can clearly see joy on the faces of children and indeed the adults!

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The sheer pleasure of seeing Charin’s face break into a smile has made it all worthwhile for us as a family. Walt Disney’s World was a very enjoyable and fascinating world for this young man of ours. And yes, he wants to return to Disneyland, again and again and again!

Walt Disney was a Compassionate Leader. He doted on his girls. I think his number one desire was to make them happy. He viewed his children through the eyes of compassion, Disney was very much a family man. Disney has been quoted as saying: ‘The most important thing is family.’ He wanted his children to enjoy their childhood. He wanted them to have fun. The ideas just kept coming out of his imaginative mind. Walt Disney was a visionary. He dreamt of establishing an amusement park – Disneyland fired up his imagination – it was going to be a family friendly park where a child’s imagination can run riot. He really believed in what he was doing. Walt Disney was a transformational and charismatic leader. He was an expert in the art of communication and made sure he communicated the vision to his team. Disney has been hailed as one of the most creative minds of all time and led America’s golden age of animation.

Disney wanted to create a world that made people happy. His television show Disneyland became an absolute phenomenon. Children started calling him ‘Uncle Walt.’ He once said: ‘Fancy being remembered around the world for the invention of a mouse!” Disney holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual, having won 22 Oscars from 59 nominations. Disney also earned 3 Golden Globe Awards and 1 Emmy Award. There were many times he experienced failure in his life, he even lost the rights to his first cartoon creation ‘Oswald the Rabbit,’ together with his artists. Despite that setback he picked himself up and went on to create the highly successful ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Walt Disney never gave up on his  dreams, despite experiencing in his own words: ‘a case of the D.D.s – disillusionment and discouragement.’

Walt Disney also used empathy as a powerful leadership tool, stories abound of Disney sending his employees to join lines and to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and see it through their eyes, in order to learn from it and improve on these experiences, in an effort to make things better for people visiting Disneyland. By becoming the other you open up a world of understanding and Walt Disney’s aim was to make every single visitor enjoy the experience. Walt Disney said: “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.” He also said: “I think what I want Disneyland to be most of all is a happy place–a place where adults and children can experience together some of the wonders of life, of adventure, and feel better because of it.”

Walt Disney was hugely optimistic about the future of the United States of America. In 1971 his love for America inspired the creation of the Hall of Presidents – he honored the nation by honoring the American Presidency – our son absolutely loves the Hall of Presidents in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida:

This is the first ever Mickey Mouse cartoon film created by Walt Disney and his team of artists and  premiered on the 18th of November, 1928 at the Colony Theater in New York City. . It was the first ever cartoon that used sound to complement the visual pictures – it became an instant smash hit. LIFE Magazine enthused: ‘Everybody liked Mickey. The children who thought he was funny, the philosophers who thought he represented America’s raucous individualism, the aesthetes who saw in him the first successful adjustment of linear design to the fluttering motion of films.’ Mickey Mouse became an overnight star.

Here are Walt Disney’s Top 10 rules of success:

  1. Show some magic
  2. Invest in Knowledge
  3. Diversify
  4. Know your goals
  5. Try it on a small scale
  6. Experiment
  7. Help your Community
  8. Go with your feeling
  9. Day dream
  10. Have a sense of humor

Ivan Corea

Here is an interesting article from the Disney Institute – Leadership lessons from Walt Disney – How to inspire your Team: https://www.disneyinstitute.com/blog/leadership-lessons-from-walt-disney–how-to/

Lessons from a Homeless Man

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My family and I were in church for the early morning Sunday service. Our precious son who is on the autism spectrum, suddenly got up from his chair and said he wanted to go to the restroom. I followed after a few minutes to make sure he was alright. When I walked into the rest room there was a homeless man in there, he was looking into the mirror in the restroom, talking to himself. He saw me waiting patiently for my son. We got talking and he was sharing what he was going through. I really felt for him. Life was very hard for him, sleeping rough on the streets of Redding, California. He had come into the church that morning because he was hungry and on a Sunday, the church feeds the homeless, giving out free meals. He was grateful for a hot meal. It was cold out there, that Sunday morning. I just prayed for him.

The man in the mirror suddenly became sharply focused, turned to me and asked:  ‘Is that your boy?’ I said yes he was. He came up to me, hugged me and said ‘can I pray for him?’ I said absolutely yes. He put his head on my chest and not knowing anything about my son, he prayed: ‘God, please make him better.’ It was a simple, uncomplicated, wonderful prayer from the heart – I believe it went straight to heaven like a dart.

I learnt several lessons from this homeless man that morning. His actions spoke volumes. Sometimes those who have less, give more – despite the fact that he didn’t have any money, he gave from the depths of his heart – he must have felt something for my son who would have walked by, not giving this man any eye contact. This is also a leadership lesson. He wasn’t a big name ‘in lights’, had fame or fortune. He wasn’t a cut above the rest of the flock. He was one of ‘us,’ humanity. This man made an impact on me. I saw him as a leader, not a stereotype. Leadership starts with influencing just one person. He certainly influenced me.

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He prayed with such compassion and kindness for our son. I was deeply moved by this simple, honest prayer. I am sure it touched the heart of his Heavenly Father. I thanked God for this man, his kindness and care – a vulnerable person having compassion for another vulnerable person. There was a leadership shift in that restroom, that Sunday morning. He had an equal place at the table, referred to in Psalm 23, prepared by God, in the presence of our enemies. They certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. He would be seated by the King. The guest of honor. I could seem him with a crown on his head, at that table. A crown given by the King for all eternity. He went that extra mile, way above and beyond, by reaching out in compassion to a young man on the autism spectrum. It’s also a lesson for all of us to reach out to the broken, because the broken will certainly reach out to us – sometimes in the most unexpected way.

Ivan Corea

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Is there a Business Case for Compassionate Leadership?

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Here is an interesting research project from Roffey Park assessing whether there is a business case for compassionate leadership.

Compassionate-Leadership-Booklet

6 Exercises To Strengthen Compassionate Leadership

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Want loyal, dedicated, and passionate employees? Be a loyal, dedicated, and passionate boss. Here are some tools to develop well-being in your workplace through better communication.

https://www.fastcompany.com/1840226/6-exercises-strengthen-compassionate-leadership

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn on Compassionate Leadership

CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner is a strong supporter of Compassionate Leadership. Here he explains his ethos on what it means to be a Compassionate Leader. He has incorporated compassion into his unique management style. The company has grown tremendously not only at their head office but also around the world. 

“Managing compassionately is about putting yourself in another person’s shoes and seeing the world through their lens and perspective,” shared LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner during his Stanford GSB View From The Top talk on Thursday, February 2, 2017.

One of the core values of LinkedIn is Compassionate Leadership, here he describes what it means to his company.

 

An act of kindness makes all the difference

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This film on youtube moved me. This was such an act of kindness and compassion. This homeless lady was desperate for food. She walked into a restaurant in San Fransisco. Apparently the restaurant staff knocked her to the ground. This was a random act of kindness. a patron of the restaurant took her away from the place, provided her with food, gave her a belt for her trousers.

She said: ‘I want you to know that you are better, you are worthy, you are God’s masterpiece. When he made you he didn’t make a mistake.’ I hope this video will inspire you to reach out in compassion and love to people who are down on their luck. Please  share this with others.

Film courtesy of youtube.