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Originally published Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Cultivating compassion in the world

Seen and heard inside and outside Saturday's "Seeds of Compassion" event at Qwest Field: "NO MATTER WHAT you do for a living — if...

Seen and heard inside and outside Saturday's "Seeds of Compassion" event at Qwest Field:

"NO MATTER WHAT you do for a living — if you're a stockbroker, a lawyer, a doctor, whatever — you can bring compassion to your everyday life. You can affect people with that," said Preston Lehr, 31, a physician assistant. "So, yeah, does an event like this have an impact on greater society? Yes. Compassion starts one person at a time."

A WEEK BEFORE Christmas, Tim Gensler of Vancouver, Wash., suffered a stroke that left his right arm and leg paralyzed. Before, he was a plant safety manager. Today he's on disability.

He's said he's only recently begun to notice and appreciate the compassion of others.

Gensler, 56, said he focuses on the positive, not the negative. He's left-handed, and he is thankful the stroke didn't paralyze his left side.

BEFORE THE procession began, several dozen people checked out the "Project Happiness" table at a resources fair on the west concourse.

On small Post-it Notes, they wrote what obstacles stood in the way of their happiness, and then, as instructed by Randy Taran, "chief happiness officer" for Project Happiness, a California nonprofit, crumpled the note and threw it in a little basket.

OUTSIDE THE stadium, three people affiliated with Veterans for Peace in Bellevue gathered to read aloud the names of every American soldier who has died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.

To them, compassion means showing respect.

"We are here to honor, respect, pay tribute to the fallen brothers and sisters who we don't want to forget," said Robert Orlando, 61, a Vietnam veteran and general contractor in Seattle.

"This is all about working on being compassionate. Letting it go. Being forgiven. Forgiving all the people who walk by, who don't have a clue," Orlando said.

"A SOCIAL movement starts with awareness," said Seth Bergman, 29, of San Francisco. "It ... happens organically.

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"So an event like this, it doesn't tell you 'Do this,' or 'Do that,' but it reminds us all that there's this really important sense of compassion and kindness and empathy that we all need to keep in mind."

DOROTHY ROCA came with her husband and her two children.

"I think we can be isolated in our families. ... An event like this reminds me we aren't so isolated," said Roca. "Look at all those people who want the same things, and believe in the same things, as I do."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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