An Encounter with a US Veteran

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The United States recently commemorated the Vietnam Veterans Day across the nation. Just the day before Vietnam Veterans Day, simply by chance, I encountered a US Veteran in California. It just got me thinking that we seem to be losing the art of face to face communication – meeting strangers and just having a conversation with them. In this high tech world I wonder if people are just not talking to each other – wherever I look people are on their cell phones, texting each other or on a laptop, people don’t seem to have the time to talk to one another.

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This wasn’t the case when I encountered the US veteran at a McDonald’s restaurant. I don’t think he had served in the Vietnam War, but I sensed he had been through wars. They appeared to be external and internal wars, even a battlefield of the mind.  He was waiting by the side of the queue. He was joking with the gentleman in front of me. He wasn’t asking for any money. When we made eye contact he asked me if I would be willing to get him a buy one get one free big mac. I told him forget about the Big Mac I would be only too glad to get him a meal. When we got to the counter, the assistant gave us the free Big Mac anyway – now that was a blessing. He told me I’ll come and sit with you. And so I sat with a total stranger, we had a meal together in a McDonalds Restaurant. He was a man of compassion, he was soft spoken.

He told me he was a US Veteran, ex-special forces. He had been through some tough times and now he was going through a really rough time. He told me that he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.  Back in the days of World War 1 and World War 2 they used to call it ‘shell shock.’ He had experienced trauma, maybe it was on the battlefield – it had affected him, mentally, physically, psychologically – there was internal pain of mind, body and heart.

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What he missed most was his service dog. Someone had stolen his dog and he dearly missed him. But he had hope. What he did have was his Bible on him. He knew the scriptures. We sat down and we talked. He opened his Bible at McDonalds and read from the scriptures – verses which gave him hope and comfort through the storms of life. I asked him if I could pray with him. We did and he wept.

I so felt the love of His Heavenly Father upon this stranger. He said he wanted to visit Israel. I said stay in faith because I believe God answers prayer. I thanked him for his service to this great country. I thanked him for his willingness to defend the freedoms of a grateful nation, in order that others may live. At the end he smiled and he blessed my family and my son. That blessing meant a lot, a blessing from a stranger.

 

Ivan Corea

Photographs courtesy of Pexels and Pixaby.

 

Peter Tabichi the compassionate teacher from Kenya

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Peter Tabichi is an incredible man. This compassionate teacher hails from Kenya. Peter teaches at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley. He teaches the poorest of the poor where they have only one computer in the school. As an ex-teacher I couldn’t believe the ratio of teacher to students in his classroom it was 58:1 and back in the days when I was teaching in Great Britain my ration was 30:1. Peter is a Christian and belongs to the Franciscan religious order.  He has no option but to teach in an overcrowded classroom within an overcrowded school. His secondary school students cannot even afford to have breakfast before they come to school. Many have to walk miles to get there.

According to the London Guardian newspaper: ‘More than 90% of his pupils are from poor families and almost a third are orphans or have only one parent. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common. Students have to walk 7km along roads that can become impassable in the rainy season to reach the school and the area can be affected by drought and famine. Despite only having one computer, a poor internet connection and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, Tabichi started a “talent nurturing club” and expanded the school’s science club, helping pupils design research projects of such quality that many now qualify for national competitions.

His students have taken part in international science competitions and won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry after harnessing local plant life to generate electricity. Tabichi and four colleagues also give struggling pupils one-to-one tuition in math and science, visiting students’ homes and meeting their families to identify the challenges they face. Enrolment at the school has doubled to 400 over three years and girls’ achievement in particular has been boosted. ‘

This man has such a heart of compassion. I see him as the embodiment of a compassionate leader. He reaches out in love and care ‘to the least of these,’ in His name. I am reminded of Mathew Chapter 25 verse 35: ‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.’ Peter Tabichi cares for his students. He is bringing out the best in them. He is an inspirational teacher. Peter makes his students believe in themselves. With just one computer he uses it for 80% of his lessons and visits internet cafes and catches content he can use in his classroom. These students who come from very poor families are going on to amazing heights. To think his students have won an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry in London, in the United Kingdom. The President of Kenya said in a video message: “Peter, your story is the story of Africa, a young continent bursting with talent.”

God always honors and blesses those who reach out in love and compassion to the poor. Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ” God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Peter was giving 80% of his monthly income to help the poor. Well he has been rewarded for his selfless generosity. Peter Tabichi was crowned the world’s best teacher and awarded a $1m prize, beating 10,000 nominations from 179 countries. He won the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2019 and was awarded his prize at a ceremony in Dubai hosted by Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman. Peter said he wants to use the million dollars to make his school a model school that is an example to Africa.

What a shining example of Compassionate Leadership in Kenya. Let’s hope that by winning this prestigious prize that people around the world will donate funds to help and support these students who come from very poor families.

Ivan Corea

Films on Peter Tabichi courtesy of youtube.

Photograph of Peter Tabichi courtesy of the Varkey Foundation: https://www.globalteacherprize.org/winners/peter-tabichi/

Here is an article from the London Guardian on Peter Tabichi winning his $1 million global award: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/24/kenyan-science-teacher-peter-tabichi-wins-1m-global-award

 

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

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“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.’

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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Tim Tebow and his “Night to Shine” global event for Special Needs

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Tim Tebow is a big man with a big heart. It is absolutely incredible what he is doing to lift up and show compassion to people with special needs, not just in the United States of America, but all over the world. He has set up a hugely successful ‘Night to Shine’ event in the United States. In his own words: ‘The vision of Night to Shine is to love people with special needs, it’s to bring churches together and to ultimately change the world through the eyes of people with special needs. February 8th (in 2019), will truly be a night people will never forget.’

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So what is ‘Night to Shine?’ Tim Tebow is a devout Christian. His number one priority in life is his faith in God. He has established a Tim Tebow Foundation as a Christian Ministry, an act of faith, focusing on celebrating the lives of all people with special needs. According to his Foundation website: ‘Night to Shine is an unforgettable prom night experience, centred on God’s love, for people with special needs ages 14 and older. This February 8, 2019, Night to Shine will celebrate its fifth anniversary! On one night, 655 churches from around the world came together to host Night to Shine for approximately 100,000 honored guests through the support of 200,000 volunteers! ‘ This is partnership working at its finest, aimed at loving and celebrating people with special needs.

People with special needs are given the Royal treatment. Red carpets, ball gowns, tuxedos, good food, the works. This night stands out. This event also brings together volunteers from local communities, they come to serve people with special needs. What an amazing event that reaches out in love to all those with special needs. Tim Tebow once posted a verse from the Bible on his Facebook page which sums up what he is doing for the most vulnerable sections of society: “‪Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. ” Ephesians, Chapter 4:32‬

The lives of people with special needs have worth and value. As the chorus goes, ‘all are precious in His sight.’ My wife and I campaigned long and hard for autism in the United Kingdom and around the world since the year 2000. We founded Autism Sunday, also know as the International Day of Prayer for Autism, to celebrate the lives of 67 million people with autism. We just did it all of this for love, never for the money. We didn’t have millions to pay for expensive PR campaigns, we were just parents and caregivers, by a miracle it spread around the world, by word of mouth. Coincidentally, Autism Sunday falls just two days after Tim Tebow’s ‘Night to Shine’ event on Sunday the 10th February in 2019. Our campaigning days are over as we believe God is taking our family in another direction. Seasons come and go but hope lives on.

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We have a precious son, Charin who is on the autism spectrum, he is 23 years old. When we were in the United Kingdom Charin attended a special needs secondary school (high school). After students completed their studies in the Sixth Form, (in the UK that is Year 12 and 13), the school held an annual Prom for them, very similar to the ‘Night to Shine’ event in the United States. That was the first occasion that our son wore a black suit, bow tie, black shoes and attended a Prom – it was also the first ever occasion he danced with another special needs girl! Charin was so excited, (and we were as excited as our son, life has been a struggle for him and for us but we so thank God that he has been a blessing to us), our son knew this was something very different. He had heard about the School Proms from films he has watched and shrieked with joy when he was dressing up to attend the prom.

My wife and I found the Prom in our son’s special needs school in the United Kingdom so touching and moving. We were very proud to see our son looking so dapper and seeing his moves on the dance floor – for the first time! He also loved the food! My wife had to drag me away from the scene as I was transfixed and deeply moved! I was  thankful to God, for this moment of compassion, seeing our son celebrating and being celebrated in this way, at his first ever Prom in the United Kingdom. It was a beautiful sight to behold. I salute Tim Tebow for embracing this concept and bringing joy into the lives of people with special needs with his “Night to Shine” event. This is a wonderful act of kindness and compassion.

 Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines on August 14, 1987. He is a former professional American football quarterback and is a current professional baseball outfielder in the New York Mets organization. He has played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship -winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent two seasons with the team. He also played for the New York Jets in 2012. Additionally, he had preseason stints with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015.

Wherever he goes, Tim Tebow shares his faith in Jesus Christ – on the football field he was known for having the verse John 3:16 on his face patches. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Perhaps his greatest success has been to set up the Tim Tebow Foundation and to launch the  inspirational “Night to Shine” event, helping churches to celebrate all people with special needs and that includes starting up a whole worldwide movement to help churches establish infrastructure – in order to welcome and support people with special needs into churches, within  a spirit of love and compassion.

When I think of Tim Tebow, this song comes to my mind. His actions on earth are a reflection of the actions of his Heavenly Father. ‘You raise me up to more than I can be,’ says the song, so I can stand on mountains – there is always hope, even for young people with special needs, their parents and their caregivers.

As a father of a young man with autism, I want to thank Tim Tebow, from the bottom of my heart, for raising up people with special needs, for bringing joy into their lives, for celebrating their lives, for showing them love and compassion with his ‘Night to Shine’ event. He is an all American hero and above everything else a wonderful servant of God who embodies Compassionate Leadership. He brings a touch of Heaven into the lives of the most vulnerable sections of society. He truly is a Servant Leader.

Here are Tim Tebow’s Top 10 Rules for Success – lessons in leadership:

  1. Pursue your passion.
  2. Strive for excellence.
  3. Focus on your goals.
  4. Change lives.
  5. Block out the criticism.
  6. Always give your best.
  7. Set your priorities.
  8. Rise after falling.
  9. Believe in yourself.
  10. Work hard.

Ivan Corea

To support the Tim Tebow Foundation, please access the link:

https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/

Photographs courtesy of Wikipedia and the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Films courtesy of Youtube.

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Lincoln – a great US President and a compassionate leader

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Travelling to Washington DC for the first time with my father and my cousin in the summer of 1986, on of the ‘must see places’ in the capital, on our list, was the Lincoln Memorial – there he was seated – the 16th US President who saved the nation, under the words: “In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

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I first read about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, from that old Classic comic book first published in 1958.  He was a President I greatly admired from the days of my childhood. He passionately believed that all men were equal, hence his deep commitment to abolishing slavery. Abraham Lincoln said: “I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty will burn in your bosoms until there shall no longer be a doubt that all men are created free and equal.” Half a million people perished in the Civil War. Beauty came out of ashes when President Lincoln ushered in a new birth of freedom, with the end of the civil war and the end of slavery.

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I never forgot those famous words uttered by this great man at the historic Gettysburg Address in 1863 – it is one of the greatest speeches made by a President of the United States of America. Here is the full text of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln

November 19, 1863

Here is one of two confirmed photographs of President Lincoln shortly after he arrived at Gettysburg on November 19th 1863, three hours before he made that historic speech. Mr. Lincoln can be seen in the middle of this photograph.

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Abraham Lincoln was a very strong leader as well as a compassionate leader. He suffered during his childhood. They say he lived in economic poverty his father might have been very hard on him, his mother passed away when he was 9 years old, he lost his sister when he was a teenager. The lawyer Eric Giroux, writing in the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, writes about Lincoln’s compassion: ‘Yet Lincoln, naturally disposed to empathy for his fellow living beings, seemed to learn from suffering, both his own and that of others.  As exemplified by his approaches to poverty, slavery, and the Civil War itself, Lincoln responded to suffering by expanding the sphere of his compassion. ‘

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Abraham Lincoln’s White House

Giroux recalled a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to a girl who had lost her father in the war. William McCullough’s death had plunged his daughter Fanny into a serious depression, which Lincoln addressed head-on in words that, as an expression of Lincoln’s compassion, are both representative and timeless:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, December 23, 1862.

Dear Fanny:

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases.  In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.  The older have learned to ever expect it.  I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time.  You can not now realise that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.  The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Please present my kind regards to your afflicted mother.

Your sincere friend,
A. Lincoln

I was so thrilled that on a visit to Walt Disney World in Florida, our son also learnt about Abraham Lincoln and was able to see the figure and the President’s story in the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square at Disney.

Ivan Corea

Excerpts from Eric Giroux’s article in the Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly: https://masslawyersweekly.com/2011/07/13/lincoln%E2%80%99s-compassion/

Photograph of Abraham Lincoln’s White House courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York

Photographs of Lincoln courtesy of Pixaby, Pexel and Wikipedia.

Compassionate Leadership: A Mindful Call To Lead From Both Head And Heart

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Read best selling author Margie Warrell’s interesting article on Compassionate Leadership on  Forbes.com Click the link to read the article.

 

Are you a Compassionate Leader?

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Are you a compassionate leader? 

The Harvard Business Review has come up with an assessment – you answer the questions online and submit them and you will receive a report. Please click on the link below.

Compassion has become increasingly recognised as a foundational aspect of leadership. One study from 2012 found that compassionate leaders appear stronger and have more engaged followers. Other studies have found that organisations with more compassionate leaders have better collaboration, lower turnover, and employees who are more trusting, more connected to each other, and more committed to the company. When we surveyed more than 1,000 leaders from 800 organisations, 91% of them said compassion is very important for their leadership and 80% said they would like to enhance their compassion but do not know how.

What do we mean by compassion? It is the intent to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. A compassionate leader has a genuine interest in seeing their people not just perform and increase profits but thrive. But this doesn’t mean “being soft” or trying to please people by giving them what they want; rather, it requires giving people what they need, such as tough feedback. Compassionate leadership requires having wisdom about how to lead for the greater good and for the long term. The good news is that compassionate leadership can be learned. With simple practices we can become more compassionate and bring more wisdom to our leadership. This assessment will help you understand how wisely compassionate you are. Answer each question honestly. After you take the assessment, you will get a report outlining where you can improve, along with practical tips for becoming a more compassionate leader.

Please submit your questions to the answers for the assessment on the link of the Harvard Business Review.

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The Assessment is courtesy of the Harvard Business Review.