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Compassion Games: Survival of the kindest right at my front door

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Lisa Suhay

(Read caption) Blogger Lisa Suhay came home to find Norfolk, Va. Sheriff's Officer Nickolas Johnson on his motorcycle looking like a sentry, guarding three squirrel pups fallen from a nest and struggling in the street.

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As parents, we spend so much time being told we must work to make our children smarter, faster, better, stronger, and leaner, there’s some relief in a “reality game” being played out over the next week in Seattle:  The Compassion Games - Survival of the Kindest.

There may not be gold medals, but organizers and parents hope the result will be a community populated with those who have hearts of gold.

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It’s great to see a national movement that adds "be more compassionate" to the list of parenting to-dos.

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The event challenges residents to act and inspire their neighbors and children to make their community a safer, kinder, better place to live through volunteerism and random acts of compassion.

The games originated in Louisville, Ky. with Mayor Greg Fischer who was following the Charter for Compassion created by 2008 TED Prize winner Karen Armstrong.

Fischer is part of the international Compassionate Cities campaign, an international movement to enact The Golden Rule around the world. Fisher then threw down the gauntlet challenging other municipalities nationwide to out-good-deed them: “I’ve said from Day 1 that we’re going to pursue being recognized as the most compassionate city in the world – and if that prods other cities to try to outdo us, then ‘Game On.’ In a competition centered on compassion, everyone wins!”

Compassionate Louisville participants amassed over 90,000 volunteers performing over 100,000 hours of community service during its one-week Give a Day program in 2012.

Seattle is the first to accept the throw-down in this fight to the friendliest and their goal has a twist, engaging children and families.

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And Rita Hibbard who has stepped-up in a big way after her community suffered a double tragedy on the same day in May of this year at two separate coffee houses. In one the man was captured after killing four and leaving one person critically injured inside Cafe Racer, a peaceful coffeehouse in the city's University District. A second shooting, about a half-hour later near downtown Seattle, left a woman dead, according to published reports.

In one incident the shooter was described by Hibbard as “a mentally ill man who felt shut out”

“Since then,” she says, “I hear so many people saying ‘I want to do something, but I don’t know how or where to start.’ So this is a way to make it easier for everyone to get engaged.”

 Part of that support effort comes from a Seattle group called the Community of Mindful Parenting, “an online community of expectant moms, parents, grandparents, extended families and friends with the goal to nurture powerful relationships between parents and their children.”

Their goal is to empower parents of children under 8 years old to become more effective, mindful and compassionate in raising their kids. They offer classes in Listening Mothers and Reflective Parenting, for long-lasting emotional health.

I just signed myself up for SuperBetter, which is free, and gave it a test drive. It’s not what I expected and that’s a good thing.

I’d expected it to be another smarmy video game and instead it’s a really unique concept that I am going to talk to my sons (ages 8, 13, 17 and 18) about tonight.

The game is designed to bridge the virtual and real worlds via “power packs” and “challenges” that have all ages doing everything from Googling pictures of their favorite things to promote emotional resiliency, to stretching, writing thank you notes and getting out there and rolling up their sleeves for charities like The United Way's public service projects.

As a mom who knows her high schooler needs community service credits as part of graduation requirements this is the best news I’ve had all week. It’s made better by being something I think we can transplant to our city as a family and community effort.

Louisville and Seattle may be kind, but we a pretty tight military and university community here in Norfolk, Va, and I think we could well be the next big winner of the Compassion Games.

Just this morning I had an example of why our city should participate when I returned home from walking my son to school and saw Norfolk Sheriff’s officer Nickolas Johnson was on his motorcycle looking like a sentry in front of my house. I was expecting the worst, and instead found he had spotted three  squirrels pups fallen from a nest and struggling in the street. He’d called it in to Animal Protection and was standing guard, directing traffic around them.

Let my City Council be forewarned. There’s a new Sheriff in town coming to ask everyone to play nice and put compassion on the agenda.