Students Put Compassion Into Action

CHICAGO, IL (January 8, 2007) - Call it the $20 revolution.

Thirteen North Park University students recently discovered how so little can provide so much. Using funds from Cathy's Cup, a University initiative to sponsor spontaneous compassion, the students were given $20 to use for acts of compassion and justice over the course of one week.

The acts were as diverse as the students, who came from a variety of backgrounds and are at different points in their faith journey, said campus Chaplain Judy Howard Peterson.

One student sent a box of Halloween candy to a cousin who is in a residential treatment facility, Peterson said. "He's just a kid," commented the student. "No kid, no matter how messed up they are, should have to be an adult while they're still a kid."

Another participant bought baking supplies after she noticed that her grandmother, who suffers from early-onset Alzheimers, was feeling especially depressed. The student then traveled to the suburbs to spend the afternoon making cookies with her grandmother.

"We bagged them up so I could give them away, which I did because cookies make everyone happy. But I think it was more about the time I spent with my grandmother," said the granddaughter.

Another person gave the money to a fellow student who wanted to take a refugee family apple picking in the suburbs. The family returned the favor by giving a bunch of the apples back to the donor, who also happened to be a Resident Assistant in one of the University dormitories.

"She spent the afternoon delivering the apples door to door to her residents, which gave her an open door to talk about compassion and the needs we notice on a daily basis," Peterson said.

Lunch and a good book were the result of another participant's generosity. The student took to lunch a man he had met through the University's Friday-night homeless ministry. "After finding out the man liked to read, the student spent the remainder of the money on a gift card at Borders book store," Peterson said.

The students said they felt a strong sense of obligation to spend the money wisely because it had been given to them, said Peterson. "Many of the students commented on how they want to spend their money differently, recognizing how just $20 can impact a situation in profound ways."

"One obstacle for young people, especially students, is the lack of money to transform their compassionate instincts into tangible actions," said Don Meyer, who started the fund with contributions given as memorials in honor his late first wife.

"The philosophy of Cathy's Cup is that personal involvement in acts of compassion can be a powerful influence as an individual experiences the joy of giving and the impact it has on the lives of others," Meyer said. "While many people will benefit from these acts of compassion, the primary benefit is the transformation that begins to take place as the student experiences the joy that comes from giving to others."

The students gathered for dinner with Peterson after the experiment and discussed their experiences. "One of the students commented that this could be the beginning of a revolution," Peterson said. "I happen to agree."