Why strengthening your compassion muscle is key

By design, we surround ourselves with people who are like us because it’s natural and comfortable. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But man! What you learn and how you grow when you branch out and meet people not like you.

My friend asked me a few weeks back if I would like to help him out with a new program that he and a few others were developing called On My Own Two Feet. It’s a running program that trains and supports homeless people to run a 5K. Of course the bigger benefit is that it empowers them to succeed in other areas of their lives too.

So yeah, I’ve been hanging out at our local homeless shelter, The Community Kitchen, and surrounding myself with unlikely friends.

I was nervous the first time I showed up. What will they be like? What will we talk about? Do I need to be afraid? How am I supposed to act?

I realized after about two minutes I was being ridiculous. These people are people.

So I relaxed and had fun! Here’s a quick recount of my experiences so far:

During one run me and two guys had a lengthy discussion about all of the racial violence. We got pretty close to solving world peace that day 

I met a really positive guy who is excited to start applying for jobs because he finally got his birth certificate and social security card in the mail. He does labor but his passion is DJing.

I ran with another guy who had to walk from two miles away just to participate. We talked about our favorite jobs and tricks to lose belly fat.

There’s a guy who has already lost 25 pounds through the program and by doing other activities on his own!

And then there’s Forest Gump! He gets out there and just doesn’t stop and can already run a 5K distance!

Before this program I would have never thought to hang out at a shelter or strike up a conversation with a homeless person. I would still be practicing uncomfortable comfort, being afraid, and having preconceived beliefs.

Needless to say I’m so glad I reached out because it’s taught me so much and the most important is COMPASSION.

When we come together and take steps to actually meet people who aren’t like us we see that we are actually more alike (and likable) than what we thought.

And guess what happens then? Instead of building higher walls we build stronger communities.

As you can guess, the challenge this week is to take time to purposely meet, interact with, and understand someone who isn’t like you. Be a good and objective listener. You know what will happen? You’ll fill up with compassion which contributes to:

  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Less depression
  • More happiness and joy
  • More friends
  • Less enemies
  • A world with more love