Here’s the last of the five small group ministry sessions I designed to counteract the deleterious effects of consumerism. The first four were Hope, Hospitality, Forgiveness, and Gratitude. This week’s session is on Compassion.

Awakening the Heart of Compassion

Chalice/Candle Lighting

Opening Words:

Twenty years ago I met a man from Montana who watched the news on television and read the newspapers because he said that doing so awakened his heart of compassion. Although not particularly interested in the news itself, he found these two forms of media rich sources for cultivating his growing sense of care for and connection to people, animals, landmasses, oceans, forests, and countries all over the planet. He went on to say that he would sit down in his living room, watch or read about some atrocity occurring in some part of the world, and feel his pain, his impulse to turn away, and, in turn, his sense of connection with all of these beings.

— Saki Santorelli in Heal Thy Self



Lama Surya Das interprets ancient Tibetan Buddhist teachings for American culture. Here’s a story about the spiritual firepower of empathy:

It is said that a long time ago, a Mahayana Buddhist master was teaching about Bodhicitta in ancient India, when his words were interrupted by the barking of a dog. The loud insistent barking so annoyed one man in the crowd that he threw a rock at the dog, striking him on the left side. At that instant, the master fell to the ground and cried out in pain. Later, when his worried disciples asked what had happened, they saw that on the teacher’s left side there was a large bruise. The dog’s pain had so touched this teacher’s noble and tender heart that it became his pain. He took it on himself.

Questions: Tell a story about a moral mentor you have known—someone who inspired you with his or her compassionate activity.

Check-out/Likes and Wishes

Closing Words:

If you see on the evening news a person who moves you by his distress, just breathe it in and breathe out to him love and strength.

— Andrew Harvey in The Direct Path

To Practice This Thought: Send love to a stranger you notice is in need.

Group Session Plan based on resources on Compassion from

For a PDF version of this small group ministry session, click here: Compassion.

For more information on small group ministry, visit the UU Small Group Ministry Network.