The Reverend Betty Adam is the founder and CEO of Compassionate Houston. She has served at Christ Church Cathedral since 1992 as pastor and educator and is currently Resident Canon Theologian. During her ministry, she has developed a theological center and an hispanic worshiping community and founded several organizations, including Brigid's Place, the Magdalene Community amd Link2Peace. We spoke with her recently to learn more about Compassionate Houston.
HOUSTON WOMAN: What is Compassionate Houston?
BETTY ADAM: Compassionate Houston is dedicated to celebrating and enhancing the compassionate culture in Greater Houston. We recognize volunteers and organizations committed to compassionate work and are building a network of partners in this mission. CH is a new organization, but one that sometimes feels more like a campaign or a grass-roots movement with a big dream for Houston. We want Houston to become one of the most compassionate cities in America, or for that matter, in the world. It’s a huge dream and because of its scope, we are starting with first steps.
HW: When was it established? By whom?
ADAM: We’ve been working on this since 2010, but we were incorporated as a nonprofit in February of this year. And, who are we? We’re a multicultural, multi-religious and multilingual group of partners as diverse as our city — students and volunteers, business people and pastors, dreamers and doers.Our Founding Partners were inspired by a global vision for a better, more compassionate world — a vision calling all men and women and children to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. When I read Karen Armstrong’s “Charter for Compassion,” which conveys the importance of the Golden Rule to all religious and moral systems, I wanted to bring the vision to Houston. So, last June, I decided to offer at the interfaith Rothko Chapel a series on compassion. Our group grew out of that series.
HW: What is the main focus of Compassionate Houston?
ADAM: Compassionate action and compassionate living, every day. We want to spread throughout the city a vision of compassionate living — we want to learn to “feel with” the other in deeper ways, recognize and respect other points of view, alleviate suffering and refrain from harming another. First, we want to celebrate the compassionate work already going on in Houston. It’s startling to realize that there are more than 15,000 nonprofits in metropolitan Houston. We want to recognize the thousands of men and women who devote the better part of their day to serving others. We also want to grow this culture of compassion.
HW: Compassionate Houston will be involved in the City of Houston’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Would you tell our readers about this involvement?
ADAM: Along with other groups, we are partnering with the City on that weekend. Every year since the tragedy, the City has devoted time to remembrance. Since this is the 10th anniversary, an entire weekend is being set aside for remembering those who lost their lives and those who served others so bravely and generously in this time of need. Compassionate Houston is given the charge to organize service projects all over the city. We are in the process of doing just that, so we need your help in getting the word out to communities, groups, organizations that might be interested in participating.
HW: I understand you have Compassionate Partners? Who are they? How many do you have now?
ADAM: Compassionate Partners are those organizations who want to join us over the 9/11 Tenth Anniversary Commemorative to commit to service over that weekend. A Compassionate Partner may either develop a service project for that weekend or submit an ongoing project that we can highlight on that weekend. If you visit our website http://www.compassionatehouston.org, you will find out more about them, who they are, etc. As of today, we have over 70 organizations as Compassionate Partners. We are hoping to grow that list considerably.
HW: Is there a fee involved?
ADAM: No fee. September 11 is a time of reflection and remembrance. Our desire is that citizens will come together in service to one another in memory and honor of those who gave their lives and so selflessly participated in the rescue. Our Houston firemen, for example, took themselves out of their safety zone in Houston and joined other firemen in Manhattan.
HW: What is the Compassionate City Initiative?
ADAM: There’s an exciting global movement for compassionate cities. The Charter for Compassion is the conceptual foundation for this movement. The International Institute for Compassionate Cities supports compassionate initiatives in cities, towns, states, nations, faith groups, schools, service groups and other places where human beings gather. Any town could declare themselves a compassionate town. This Institute and the great people who head it up have been a wonderful resource for us in starting up Compassionate Houston.
HW: Who are the Compassionate Ambassadors?
ADAM: Specific to the 9/11 event coming up, Compassionate Ambassadors are individuals who want to assist Compassionate Houston in activities leading up the weekend and on that weekend itself. In more general terms, the Ambassadors work to be examples of compassion. They notice kindness, acknowledge a courtesy taken for granted, look for compassionate “seeds” in unexpected places. They tell and remind others though their actions, how important it is to be compassionate. Our T-shirts say “We are Compassionate Houston.” We the people are compassionate.
HW: How do individuals register to become a Compassionate Ambassador?
ADAM: Thank you for asking that question. Anyone interested can go to our website and click the “Get Involved” page and sign up. We, in turn, will be in touch. We want to have an informational get-together of Ambassadors to prepare for that weekend.
HW: I understand Compassionate Houston would like to host several open, city-wide conversations about compassionate living to serve as training for the ambassadors. Have you scheduled any yet?
ADAM: These conversations are part of our next step. We don’t have any scheduled yet but that activity is certainly part of our dream.
HW: What have I not asked about that you would like Houston women (and men) to know about Compassionate Houston?
ADAM: There’s so much to talk about. But, I guess I would say that Compassionate Houston is foremost a connecting and energizing organization. We want to create opportunities for you to connect to service projects and build upon the compassionate work you are already doing. If you study the history of compassionate work in Houston, you will see how involved women have always been in fostering compassionate service. Starting with Kezia Payne DePelchin in the late 19th century whose heart went out to orphaned children, women have been in the forefront of serving and giving. I believe women can be in the first ranks of those in this grass-roots movement to cultivate compassion in this great city of ours.