An Interview with Jon Ramer, Compassion Games Founder
By Starla Sampaco, Senior Host, What’s Good 206
The Compassion Games are a series of actions inspired by the Charter for Compassion. Founder Jon Ramer, who is also the executive director of Compassionate Seattle, conceived the games in response to a friendly challenge from Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher. Fisher declared “Louisville is the most compassionate city in the world until proven otherwise. “Seattle responded, and the two cities were the first to compete in the games, which resulted in a tie.
This year’s games ran from September 11 – 21st, ending on the International Day of Peace. The games have gone global and include 18 cities from Seattle to Gurgaon, India. Anyone, anywhere could participate. There are four ways to play: service learning projects, random acts of kindness, secret agents of compassion, and events.
Each city collects points for compassionate actions, and these points are tallied up to declare the most compassionate city. The objective is for communities to collaborate and widen the circle of compassion through collective impact. In doing so, communities accomplish more together than any individual or organization can do alone. The games promote a safer, kinder community and encourage positive social connection.
On Wednesday, September 11th, the Seattle Compassion Games kick-off event took place at Cleveland High School. What’s Good, 206? – a group of Seattle youth using video to promote social change—showcased videos produced by high school students from our annual youth media camp. I caught up with Jon Ramer, the founder and “1st First-Follower” of the Compassion Games, to discuss the 2013 games and what inspired them. Here’s excerpts from our interview:
SS: So tell us, what are the Compassion Games?
JR: It’s a global competition [cooperative competition] that takes place from September 11 to September 21…so communities around the world are cooperating to compete not against each other, but with each other…The vision of a global “coopetition” is communities striving together to create a more compassionate world, one community at a time.
SS: I saw on CompassionGames.org that people can get involved by being “secret agents of compassion.” Could you tell us about that?
JR: Shhhhh it’s a secret, okay? Well Andy Smallman lives here in Seattle. He started the Puget Sound Community School and has taught kindness online for many years. He is really the visionary behind this. Each day during the games, the secret agents will receive a mission to go out into the community and perform an act of kindness. Andy guides folks in different kinds of examples of these missions like…well I don’t want to give it away because it’s a secret, but these are things that you can do anonymously.
One of the beautiful ways of giving to others is to do things without seeking any credit or any recognition in exchange. Each day you’ll receive a mission if you sign up [at www.compassiongames.org] to be a secret agent of compassion. You can perform these random acts of compassion and put them up on the Compassion Map, and that’s one way others can learn and see what you’ve done and become inspired by it.
SS: What are other ways that people can get involved in the Compassion Games?
JR: Well, anybody anywhere can play anytime. In fact, on the website have a gallery of examples of what you can do. There are also service projects…anything from building a playground, [to] helping paint a house, to working with other organizations that can use some extra help. Each community is keeping track of these activities, so you submit these reports on the Compassion Map.
What we’re counting, as part of the scoring of the leader board for the Compassion Games, is the number of volunteers, the number of hours of service, and the dollars that we raise for non-profits, as well as the number of people that we serve.
SS: Obviously the most repeated word in this conversation has been “compassion.” Could you clarify what that means and what that looks like?
JR: You know it’s really an interesting word because it means different things to different people. One of the inspirations for this was Karen Armstrong winning the TED Prize. She’s a religious scholar, and she studied all these different paths—moral, spiritual, ethical, religious, faith-based codes—and that’s one thing they all have in common: this idea of the one Golden Rule, that you want to treat other people the way you want to be treated, or you don’t want to treat other people the way you don’t want to be treated. Her wish was to implement globally the Golden Rule, and [she] led the process of writing the “Charter for Compassion” for our times. Compassion has something to do with feeling for others, but not just the empathy and feeling for them. Compassion requires actually turning that empathy into action for others. It’s dethroning yourself from the center of the universe.
Often times, (I’m speaking for myself) It looks like the whole world is just about me and my interpretation of things, but it actually takes a little bit of thought to realize what’s going on for somebody else and to feel what they might be feeling and to realize what’s needed and wanted in that moment to bring some relief, to alleviate some suffering, and to help create a more compassionate world. There’s no one right answer to “what is compassion?”
SS: We’re thinking globally, but how about local action? How can my generation (or anyone in Seattle) make Seattle a more compassionate place?
JR: There are lots of challenges in this world, and I won’t be shy…I think sometimes compassion can be fierce. If I were you, compassionate action looks like demanding that the older generation provide resources and give you guys [youth] the power you need to bring out the changes that are necessary to continue to sustain life as we know it, and maybe go from just surviving to thriving.
For those of you who are up to the challenge of creating a more compassionate world, visit http://compassiongames.org and learn how you can play and make a difference.
Starla Sampaco has been with What’s Good, 206? since January 2012, and she is now a regular on the show as a senior host. In the fall, she will be a freshman at the University of Washington-Seattle. She is currently Miss Seattle Teen USA 2013.