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Originally published Friday, April 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Seeds of compassion are planted here

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that rule seems to apply to compassion, a nebulous concept heavily prized, rarely defined.

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A complete listing of Seeds of Compassion events and times can be found at: www.seedsofcompassion.org

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that rule seems to apply to compassion, a nebulous concept heavily prized, rarely defined.

It is not for lack of trying that proponents of Seeds of Compassion, an impressive effort to raise the spotlight on the importance of kindness and compassion, have their work cut out for them.Like beauty, most people think they're already compassionate enough. And similar to another popular saying about legislating morality, it is not likely that compassion can be ordered from on high. Freedom means people will always be free to act as compassionate as they choose to.

This does not mean compassionate communities shouldn't be encouraged. They should. Seeds of Compassion is to be credited for spearheading the effort.

Ron Rabin, executive director of the Bellevue-based Kirlin Charitable Foundation, which focuses on early-childhood development and has launched the Seeds initiative, offers a compelling vision for compassion that is rooted in sustainable, actionable, measurable results.

Educators, neuroscientists and other experts have long been examining the role compassion plays in early-childhood development and in communities. The explorations move into the public arena with the arrival of theexiled Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama.

The presence of one of the most respected religious leaders in the world would be a catalyst for change without the Seeds effort. But the combination of the Dali Lama's five-day stay in Seattle coupled with a series of high-profile events exploring compassion raises the impact significantly.

From large-setting forums such as at the Edmunson Pavilion on the University of Washington campus to in-home discussions, compassion promises to be the buzzword for the next week, at least. Schools such as the John Stanford International School in Seattle are using a newly created curriculum to teach compassion to their students. Schools can download the curriculum free.

The presence of Raj Manhas, the former superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, lends the grass-roots effort gravitas and ensures a youth-centered connection. This is good. Children are the future. If they grow up instilled with compassion, we're all better off.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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