Monday, 19 January 2015

A Path to Compassion - Day 51

Day 51 (20th January 2015)

51% is the minimum maize content in Bourbon Whiskey
(with the other grains usually being a mixture of Rye and Malt).
Most distillers use 65-75% "corn" hence the sweet taste.
It must begin ageing in charred oak barrels (for colour & flavour) 
at no more than 125 proof and be bottled between 80 and 160 proof.
Un-aged Bourbon is called White Dog.
There are more barrels of Bourbon than people in Kentucky.
Illustration - 19th Century Bourbon bottle
Today's post is by Janice Howitt - a wonderful lady whom I met when we were colleagues in Edinburgh in 2011.  Janice is an experienced Senior HR Manager at RBS. When I was with her she worked formidable hours and some colleagues were slightly intimidated by her. She is a strong character and has a quick wit. We forged a friendship and remained in touch when I left. I have immense admiration for the way in which Janice has coped with the trails of the past two years. This is her first ever blog. She read others' posts that I had linked on Facebook and decided to contribute. In her piece below she is making a public pledge that many of us would do well to emulate.


Compassion  can be defined as the  emotion  that one feels in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. Nowhere has this been more evident than in recent days in my wonderful dear city of Glasgow. The bin lorry tragedy followed so recently after the Clutha Bar tragedy, bookending two festive periods, has left the city with a dreadful sense of loss and questioning why. And yet what we have seen in Glasgow are human beings showing and demonstrating real compassion in such terrible events. 

Clutha disaster - police helicopter crash, November 29th 2013
The bin lorry crash resonated so deeply with us all for three reasons; firstly, an incident so near Christmas causing death, injury and emotional distress is always tragic, secondly Glasgow and its people suffering again from what could be described as an act of God so soon after Clutha has felt unjust, and thirdly, it happened in a busy shopping and commuting area of Glasgow where any one of us may have been that day, had fate shared a different hand. 

View down Queen Street towards George Square, Glasgow
shortly after bin lorry crash, 22nd December 2014
What was witnessed was truly awful and yet people helped in their droves, treating the injured, closing eyes of the dead and supporting other human beings in their time of need. 
Glaswegian compassion
Floral tributes and messages for the victims of the crash in George Square
Today a vigil at the first of the crash sites attracted more than 1000 people, each joined in grief, compassion and a unified desire to help others. 

Glasgow vigil, Sunday 28th December 2014
This is the city I know, the people I love and the spirit I am proud of. Prayers and thoughts are with those affected directly or indirectly by these events and I am hopeful that over time, these people can heal and recover.

I Wish I was In Glasgow -sung by Iain MacKintosh, composed by Billy Connolly

This recent tragedy, and the reaction of normal people, has motivated me to engage differently with my own emotional responses to compassion going forwards. Too often, I am motivated to help others in response to my emotions, but I choose not to. I am realistic - I know that I will never give my life up to go and volunteer to help stop the spread of Ebola, and perhaps I don't need to, but too often life gets in the way and the smaller, less material things, which I could do to help others, get brushed aside. The people who lose out are those I have emotionally responded to, but then done nothing for. 

In the latter part of 2013 I contracted Septicaemia, given only a 20% chance of survival and recovered. 2014 has consequently been a year of recuperation, with long periods off work and the isolation associated with this, the discovery of true friendship, the divorce of some other friendships and learning to adjust to a different pace of life. I have however been given a gift that I truly cherish: I have learnt to properly balance my work and personal life, am significantly less stressed, I now have a perspective I have never had and an inner peace that only comes with facing death, choosing life and valuing family and friendships. 

Perhaps it has also been this life changing event that has engendered in me a desire to be more compassionate to others and try to actively and passionately help others. 

Perhaps it was always there but life, work, and exhaustion gave me neither the clarity or desire to change from FEELING compassionate of others and events, to ACTING also on these emotions. 

Proactive Compassion
Generosity Bestowing Her Gifts, by Giovanni Battista, 1734
And so, I am committed in 2015 to "pay it forward", choosing carefully the events, occasions or people I will not just desire to help, but ACTUALLY help.

These will not be monumental actions such as responding to Ebola or War but neither will they be the easy choices, such as always donating money. These will be the choices that require time, courage, commitment and consistency of response from me and I hope, by taking this approach, I can do a little to help others. Glasgow as a city and a population will continue to support those affected by recent events, show and demonstrate compassion well beyond 2014 and I too will now step up and do more to help others.

Providing a helping hand
My questions to you are: 

"Do you feel, do you act, do you walk by, do you care?" 


"What if it were you who needed help and support, who would be there for you?" 

One act, one time, one event, one person, is all it takes.......

The Good Samaritan by Honoré Daumier ,1828
Burrell Collection, Glasgow


  1. Gosh Kate, some of these stories ......... beautiful writing.

  2. As my mum used to say "Every little helps, said the old woman into the sea"