compassion, empathy, family, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Stuck at Home with Family? Practice RECK!

These are unusual times. The novel Coronavirus has more and more states telling people to stay at home and requiring Physical Distancing if we must go out. This puts many of us in a situation where we are “Safer at Home” with the people we love… and getting on each other’s nerves!

Never fear! RECK is here! To save you having to click over to another page to discover what the heck RECK is, I’ll take a moment to explain it here. RECK is an acronym that stands for respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is meant as a simple guide to help us treat others in the best way possible. And don’t we want to treat the people we love most in the whole world in the best way possible? Of course we do.

Think of it this way: all people need respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness in order to stay emotionally healthy. When you think about harm that has been done to people, in every instance, one or more of these four principles has been violated. In family situations, most typically the principle we forget to adhere to is to be kind to one another.

Here’s how to utilize RECK at home during this unusual time:

First, do your best to remain respectful towards your family members at all times. This can be a tough one, especially when we are feeling irritable. Disrespectful words are usually those words that we end up regretting later. When it comes to trying to create a harmonious home atmosphere, being disrespectful is a line we simply should not cross. Being respectful towards your family all the time will help you maintain a healthy self-respect. When you are respectful to others, you feel good about yourself.

Next, make an effort to be empathetic towards the feelings of others. This one can be especially challenging with young children. They tend to feel things strongly and are often unable to completely articulate or even understand their feelings. As adults, we have an important role to play in helping them identify their emotions and learn to understand and control them. Remember, empathy is deeper than sympathy. Sympathy is to feel for someone, while empathy requires us to go even further and feel with them. A good way to understand empathy is to remember the adage of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Then, strive to always keep your compassion switch in the “on” position. This is a tall order. Compassion calls us to feel another person’s suffering with them and then work to relieve it. Compassion, however, is a game-changer for children. Kids feel so often misunderstood and like their suffering is ignored. As adults, we can sometimes wish children would simply “get over it.” But we need to remember that their feelings are very real to them and when we take them seriously and respond to them, children feel heard. Although perhaps more pronounced in children, this is true for all people. And during these stressful times, lots of people might be feeling strong emotions. We all would be well served to hear one another out, take each other’s feelings to heart, and make an effort to provide comfort whenever possible.

Finally, in all situations and at all times: Be kind. If you think this one is easy or trivial, then think back to the last time that you know you hurt someone else’s feelings whether they said so or not. You might not have to think back very far! Kindness is the grease that oils the gears of healthy family dynamics. Being unkind is like throwing a wrench in the works. How often has everything been going just fine at home and then someone did or said something unkind and all heck broke loose? Kindness is the key to unlocking family harmony.

If your family is struggling to get along right now, then make a big sign that says “RECK: Respect, Empathy, Compassion and Kindness” and put it up someplace everyone can see it. Then, make sure everyone knows what all of those words mean and make a promise to treat each other with RECK. You’ll be amazed by how much better everyone gets along.

All the best,

Matthew Vasko,

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, kindness, Love

Kobe Bryant: 8/24

Image: A mural depicting deceased NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna is displayed on a building in Los Angeles. Mario Tama, Getty Images


 

By Rochelle Leon

If you had asked me a few weeks ago what I knew about Kobe Bryant, I would have told you he was a famous basketball player. That’s pretty much all I knew. I wasn’t a basketball fan, I had never watched a Lakers game and I don’t think I’d ever even seen Kobe Bryant play, except perhaps catching a highlight reel while waiting for the sportscaster to throw it back to the anchors. And yet, on Sunday January 26th 2020, I found myself glued to the TV, heartsick and weeping as I heard about his death and the 8 other souls, Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan, who perished in the helicopter crash earlier that morning.

Tragedies happen all too often and you would think as a culture we might start to become immune, but thankfully, we have not. And on this terrible day, when a helicopter fell out of the sky with 9 people on board, WE collectively mourned, all of us, the whole world, together. You could feel the universal swell of empathy and compassion and it felt like a spotlight on the best of humanity.

That night I had a dream about Kobe Bryant. I dreamt that he and I were having a conversation and he talked to me about success, faith and love. When I woke, I was a little rattled, because it was one of those dreams that seemed so real and so clear. Don’t worry, I didn’t think it meant that Kobe Bryant had just spoken to me from the great beyond, but it did make me realize that I had been genuinely affected by what happened and that I couldn’t just dismiss that.

It seemed wrong that I knew infinitely more about Kobe Bryant’s death, than I did his life, and all the other lives lost that day, so he next morning I turned on the TV to learn more about them. The first news story I saw was of course about Kobe. The reporter was interviewing someone who worked at the church he had attended. He spoke of the fact that Kobe Bryant was a devout Catholic. He went on to say Kobe had attended church by himself the very morning of his death, as he would often do, as to worship without being a distraction to the other parishioners during Sunday services. Hearing this did send a shiver down my spine. I just had a dream where Kobe Bryant talked to me about God! But until this moment, I had no idea he was a man of faith and honestly, I would not have assumed that. Which made me think, why wouldn’t I have assumed that?

Another news story I heard later that day focused on exactly that type of unfair assumption. The kind we all unfortunately have a tendency to make, shifting that spotlight now from the best of humanity, to the worst of it.

The story was about a video that had been recorded by one of the students at a local high school, taken the Monday morning after the helicopter crash. It was of a teacher speaking to a sea of Lakers jerseys and sad faces, and he was shockingly going on an angry and judgmental tirade about Kobe Bryant. He referenced the controversies and scandal surrounding his life and career and his words were the polar opposite of what you would imagine grieving, emotional students needed to hear. It was appalling, insensitive and insultingly ill timed! How dare he??? I was incensed! My first thought was, this sorry excuse for a teacher is an uninformed, judgmental, small-minded imbecile who should be fired and never teach again!!!

…But then, wasn’t I doing to him, the same thing he had done to Kobe Bryant? The same exact thing I had been so incensed about?

What if this rant was this teacher’s most shameful, most regrettable moment of his career? Perhaps his greatest mistake? We all make them. He is a teacher after all, is it possible that he has nurtured, supported, and encouraged hundreds of students for years and that this was just one isolated incident? On an ordinary day he could have been caught imparting wisdom, inspiring his students, and teaching invaluable lessons? Should I be assuming whom he is from this one news clip, judging him without having all the facts, projecting my own anger and preconceived notions upon him? Should this 10 second video be what defines this man? I didn’t even know what he said 5 minutes before the video or 5 minutes after!

This realization prompted me to re-watch the video. To my surprise, I wasn’t re-watching it at all, I actually watching it for the first time. You see, the section I had seen on the news was all of about 10 seconds and the video clip in its entirety was 4 minutes and 20 seconds. So in fact, I could hear what he said minutes before and after. I was very glad I listened.

He did in fact say some very harsh, very controversial and completely speculative things about Kobe Bryant. Things I definitely did not agree with or approve of him saying to High School students, especially in their raw emotional state. However, if you listen closely (and I can promise you I did), you’ll see he was also using this tragedy as a teachable moment. He was extending warnings to his students about carefully choosing your heroes and openly speaking your mind, even if your views may be unpopular. He cautioned that if any one of them in that very room were to be accused of the things Kobe had been accused of, they would probably go to jail and that money and power can get influential people out of a lot of precarious situations that ordinary people cannot get out of. He informed his class of the dangers of traveling by helicopter, explaining that they are one of the most dangerous types of transportation. He talked about how just because you have the money and means to do something, doesn’t always mean you should do it. And he warned that making selfish decisions could hurt those you love and those who love you. I didn’t agree with the way he was doing it, but I could clearly see his intentions were good and that his advice was honest and sound and valuable.

From everything I could tell, he was genuinely trying to reach these kids and help them to prevent making mistakes by idolizing someone who, though a beloved sports figure was, like all of us, in no way perfect.

Ummm… who was the uninformed, judgmental, small-minded imbecile now? Spoiler alert – it was me! I normally consider myself to be an open-minded, accepting, respectful, fair and kind person, so what in the world was I thinking? I wasn’t thinking – I was assuming! I judged him rashly and without all the facts. Who am I to decide who he (or anyone else) is, based on hearsay or sound bites? And yet, that’s exactly what I did… and that’s exactly what he did! And sadly, it’s what we ALL do, so much of the time!

Think about it, when you see a car swerving all over the place on the freeway, what is your knee-jerk reaction? “That idiot” (because they’re always an idiot! or moron! or maniac!)… “That idiot is texting! Or drunk! Or both!” How many times has your first thought been, “Gosh, I hope he’s alright! Maybe he’s having a heart attack or there’s something wrong with his car?” For whatever reason, it’s human nature to automatically assume the worst. And the saddest part is, it’s so ingrained in us, that most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it! We go through our whole lives this way. But if we could only wake up to this backward way of thinking and focus on it just long enough to reverse our natural response into one of compassion and of giving the benefit of the doubt, it could literally, make all the difference in the world!

Simply put, what we do matters. Who we are matters. Whether you are an NBA super-star, a 13 year old girl, a mom, a dad, a coach, a pilot – all of us – we all matter. And how we treat each other, matters.

I’ve learned a lot about Kobe Bryant over the last week, but the thing that strikes me the most, even more than what an exceptional athlete he was – one the greats of all time or how he has inspired millions of people, was simply that he was just a man, a man who was deeply, deeply loved. Deeply loved by his family, friends, teammates, fans and the world. To fill the world with that much love in a lifetime seems like the best way I can think of to spend it.

Now, when I see the numbers 8/24, they hold a new and deeper meaning for me. They represent that extraordinary, sweeping kind of love – to give it, show it, receive it, enjoy it, and be grateful for it. And further, those numbers will always be a reminder to be kinder, more aware and more accepting… to be the very best we can be, separately and together as a team.

A few weeks ago, I hardly knew anything about Kobe Bryant other than that he was a famous basketball player. I know so much more now.

Rochelle Leon


Rochelle Leon is a writer, wife and mom. She formerly owned a greeting card company and is currently working on a novel. Rochelle has a passion for compassion and believes in a brighter future where everyone is a little kinder to one another. She lives in Southern California with her family.

Acceptance, Love

True Love: To Be Loved Just As We Are

I believe there is a deep human need to be loved and accepted exactly the way we are. We all need someone in our lives to tell us that we are worthy, we are enough, and we are loved. I believe this is the kind of love that Fred Rogers was referring to when he ended his program with “I like you just the way you are.” He was saying you don’t need to do anything special to be worthy of love, you are loved just as you are at this moment.

This is the kind of love many of us get from our parents (and rightfully so). And – if we are lucky – we might just find someone who loves us this way to get married to and make a family with. I am fortunate enough to say that I am one of the lucky ones who is loved this way by my wife. I often say that it was my wife who taught me what love really was. By this, I mean a romantic love that is deeper than romantic love so often can be.

Before I met and fell in love with my wife I had girlfriends who might at some point in our relationship reach a point where they said they loved me, but that love always seemed to come with conditions. They might say things like, “I love you, because of the way you look at me.” or “I love you, because you treat me so well.” Their love also often felt like they loved me a certain amount, but they would love me even more if I could simply manage to change this one thing about me or that one thing.

My wife was the first woman who ever loved me just the way I was. And what was even more wonderful about her love was that the more she got to know the real me the more she loved me. She even loved me for things that I saw as weaknesses about myself, such as my sensitivity. She was able to look at those parts of me that I didn’t so much love and say, “You’re being too hard on yourself.” We all need that kind of love in our lives, don’t we?

I believe the kind of love and acceptance I have received from my wife has probably helped me grow into a better person than I might have otherwise been. That’s what acceptance can do. It helps us see the best in ourselves and think the best of ourselves and want grow to be even better – by strengthening our finer qualities. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but she knows this about me and loves me anyway. And that’s the point.

If my kids ever one day ask me what they should look for in a partner I will say this: “Look for someone who loves you for who you are and supports you in who you want to become.” To me, that seems like real love. True love. Love that can last a lifetime.

So, this Valentine’s Day I am grateful for my Valentine. Like her love for me, I love her just the way she is. And this Valentine’s Day and every day I wish for that kind of love for you – whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey. I wish you love that accepts you the way you are and wants you to grow in all of the ways you wish to grow. Happy Valentines Day.

With Love,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect

Parenting with Respect, Empathy, Compassion, and Kindness

Parenting can be a challenge, but it can also be a joy. As parents, we are always searching for tools to help us overcome the challenges and bring us to that place of joy. One set of such tools that has been highly effective for me is learning to parent with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness (RECK). This transition, which happened gradually for me three years ago over the course of about 18 months, has been absolutely transformational.

The first thing I discovered when I put these tools to use was how often I was completely unempathetic to things my then 6-year-old twins were experiencing. After all, I had been six once myself. And I remember what a strange, magical, and sometimes frightening place the world could be. Harnessing my empathy allowed me to slow down and see things from their perspective. Respect played a part in this too, because first I needed to have a certain amount of respect for the fact that what they were experiencing was very real to them before I could start to empathize with them.

Over time, this experience changed me. I became a much more patient parent. I came to realize that when they didn’t immediately hop-to-it when I asked them to do something it wasn’t because they were defying me, but because they needed a moment to shift gears. Children have full inner lives just like adults and – like adults – children need a moment to process a request, finish up whatever they were doing, and move forward.

For me, compassion was an easy one when something happened to my children physically, but a challenging one when things happened to or within my children emotionally. Compassion, for me, was very much about learning to read my children better. Yesterday, for example, I told my son that I was a little disappointed that he had gone against one of the house rules (it was really just kind of an aside, no big deal). He didn’t react much at first, but about five minutes later he got up from the couch and went to his room. A few years ago I would not have understood what was happening, but thanks to working on my compassionate response I was immediately cued in to the fact that he was beating himself up over what he had done. I went to his room and we had a long talk about the fact that I love him and that he needs to talk to himself the way he would expect a good friend to talk to him. He wouldn’t let a friend speak to him abusively and he shouldn’t speak to himself that way either.

Finally, in all things, I have learned to be kind. The world is a tough place and children need a place to feel safe, secure, and loved. I don’t know about you, but I want that place to be our home. I am constantly conscious of the atmosphere of our home now. If I’m not feeling the love then I make an effort to pump it up. We don’t need to worry about toughening up our children – the world is going to do that to them whether we want it to or not. But we do need to worry about our children’s psychological and emotional well-being. Harm that happens at home and harshness inflicted by a parent can leave scars that last a lifetime. I have adult friends who will testify to this.

In the end, children learn to treat people the way they are treated. If we treat our children with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness, then we will raise humans who are respectful, empathetic, compassionate, and kind. And isn’t that really what we all want as parents?

Much love to you all,

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion

compassion, empathy, kindness, Love, RECK, respect, Uncategorized

We Need a Revolution of Connection

Do you ever feel a longing for connection? Real connection? More than another text or email, or even another casual conversation? In our fast-paced, screen-time-heavy world, it seems like we are drifting further and further apart from one another.

This is not to say that we have ever been that socially connected in my lifetime. A child of the 80’s, I feel like I was practically raised by the television – long before smart phones came along demanding our attention.

Perhaps there was a time when communities were closer knit, but it hasn’t been in my lifetime. Essentially, I find myself longing for some Utopian past I never knew. Or perhaps it never really existed to begin with. Who knows.

But here’s the thing. It sure does seem like we could reduce the amount of conflict in the world if people would just sit down and talk to one another. How are we ever going to work out our differences if we keep splitting ourselves into smaller and smaller factions?

We need a revolution of connection! Meaningful connection – deep conversations where we work through our misunderstandings and disagreements. This is the kind of connection where trust is built and where genuine community takes shape.

Our fast-paced, cold, indifferent world needs reflection on connection, a Renaissance of nuance, and a renewed unity of community!

And of course I feel compelled to add that as we undergo this revolution of connection, we must strive to treat one another with respect, empathy, compassion, and kindness. Honestly, I find these qualities lacking in our modern world as well. We are all perfectly capable of treating one another better, but it takes self control and a determination of will. It begins with us wanting to do better.

So, find ways to connect with others in a meaningful way. Unplug. Get real face-to-face time with others. Schedule unstructured time with your family with no screens and lots of conversation. Go out for lunch and coffee with friends. Make time for connection.

Join a church, social organization or bowling league. Heck, join a group you disagree with and work towards changing them from the inside. Just get out there!

Real connection takes real effort, and it is worth it. It pays big dividends with regard to improved mental and emotional health.

So, answer your inner call – your yearning – for connection. Let the revolution begin! And you’ll be glad you did.

Love to you, always.

Matthew Vasko

Founder, Century of Compassion