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Today’s Vocabulary Lesson…

March 15, 2011

has everything to do with why should enter our poetry contest.

I learned a new phrase – Compassion Window – yesterday during NPR reporter Patt Morrison’s coverage of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.

“There’s a Compassion Window that closes,” Morrison’s guest, John Yeager, World Vision Media Relations Director explained. “You have to raise in three weeks what you need for three years.”  This idea startled me. Did humans really have the capacity to shut out compassion as easily and predictably as we might keep winter bluster from blowing into the kitchen?  And, is money the only evidence of compassion?

Curious, I typed “Compassion Window” into my search engine.  Apparently I’m late to this concept as all manner of news stories popped up and each relayed a consistent theme. Disaster strikes. Fiscal help comes flooding in. And then. It trickles. To a. Stop.

The writer in me, hoping to discover the source of naming this concept, began playing with different word arrangements.

Searching “Window of Compassion”  brought up almost exactly the same stories as “Compassion Window.” Except this: Charter for Compassion – Malaysian Report.   Here, identical words – transposed with a small added preposition – present a window opening, rather than closing. “The capacity to empathize is the window to compassion.” There’s a blooming presence, rather than a looming absence.

This line is a paraphrase from Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s lecture, “The Profound Journey of Compassion,” a lecture screened to the committee in Malaysia which was convened to facilitate the country’s moment of joining the international Charter for Compassion movement.

I think, with this slight rearrangement of words, we are offered a window creaking open, regardless of what ravages beyond.

As we approach the deadline for our poetry contest, I invite you to consider things as small as words.

Imagine the meaning in their arrangement:  Compassion Window.
Conceive of what happens when words, ideas, are rearranged:  Window to compassion.

The exact quote from the Swami’s lecture is, “that capacity to empathize is the window through which you reach out to people, you do something that makes a difference in someone’s life. Even words. Even time. Compassion is not identified in one form.”

Poetry is language’s gift of transformation and compassion. We invite you to share your gift with our readers.


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