Charter for Compassion - by Shishir Lakhani

Recently I addressed a meeting for ‘Charter for Compassion’ in Richmond Hill (


Yes, you heard my introduction

An Indian from Africa educated in England and found success in Canada …made my little fortune … a lot of hardwork … Great learnings

It instilled values of self-reliance -Charity indeed began at home

But I was a lottery winner … being born right.

(Right place, right time, right upbringing)

Not a day passes when I am not humbled that my success was built upon the shoulders of so many who nurtured me and those that came before me


…Now for the past 16 years, I lead a life of service to others …

Realizing that adversities in my life of travels and business

Gave me that unique advantage ... that of empathy

Empathy – Of having walked in their shoes


Those that have not traveled… have only read one page of the book so said, St Augustine

I have an advantaged background

I have experienced many cultures traditions languages and values - Casting a much wider perspective


But the more I learn the more I realize how little I know

However, what I do know is that

We, humans, feel before we reason …We are emotional …

We are driven by competing forces of emotions

A Biological -PARADOX: Let us compare to extremes

Fear and Love

On one hand… Fear-based emotions of self-protection – fight/flight (competitive survival)

… And then the other kind of emotions of love, kindness compassion, and empathy (collaborative)- relationships

You see a baby with a mother… your heart melts

or wince in extreme pain of others


My belonging, my loyalties have been challenged and changed

So have my judgments which were built upon implicit biases,

prejudices, and stereotypes….  Verydiscomforting

Now I am becoming more comfortable … being uncomfortable

Because I no longer see our world in … black and white 


Question - So what defines us and our boundaries?

Me; family; Nation; Gender; Race; Religion; …list goes on… 

We readily take sides watching sports

– Us v them – Is this the beginning of polarization?

–Perhaps the ugly head of tribal xenophobia’s …


Evolution has shown us that …when we cooperate as groups

We are far more successful

Reducing inequalities for common good

Dare I dream for more worldwide equity?

As covid has shown us, we may all be in the same storm but we are certainly not in the same boat

 – social Justice … gone missing


So …can our group boundaries NOT be extended?

…For benefit of all humankind?

A distant dream …’ Nonsense you say… ‘Pollyannaish … Utopian’

What really rules you say is ‘Power, Corruption and Greed’


I ran a business…Provided a product of value

My Mission statement did not say I want to get rich and powerful

But instead, it was to add value to lives of others 


But being a realist …I remain well aware

That the very powerful …certainly have large predatory tentacles

Their Individual Egos often…overtake and overlook communal rights


So the big question is - Are we humans intrinsically good?

Moral compass comes into question

‘Do unto other…. ‘

That ubiquitous Golden Rule … Common to most Religions

And roots of Humanism … Show compassion - do no harm


So let me repeat … are we humans intrinsically good?

I the optimist…. say YES absolutely

As we advanced in history, often through common needs of trade and greater understanding

…. We Humans have become far more cooperative -More progressive and more globally interdependent.

It takes a village to raise a child – African proverb

In a short time, we humans have come a long way in improving and lifting lives of so many, out of poverty.


What keeps us from extending that hand of compassion?

Not only to our fellow beings….but also to our mother earth?


Ignorance say some … Apathy say others 

The difference between ignorance and apathy

‘I don’t know …   I don’t care’

Do we Build walls or do we build bridges?

The more the mango tree flourishes the more it droops – Indian proverb

Compassion indeed can dethrone the ego


After retiring, I have been Volunteering for past 16 years

And I started really living… Learning to go beyond myself


Today my past life, thriving Balance sheet … Looks rather pale

Compared to the high …. I get from helping others

True piety has to be love of others …

In the past decade I believe I have not only added years to my life ….but I have put life back into those extended years

I met many hearty people – Who make a meaningful difference


What can we do?

Chinese saying…Journey of 100 miles begins with first step

We cannot change the whole world

… But we can change ourselves and those around us;


Whatever the field we are in -Invest in Compassion

  • Join hands / Listen more / be the connectors
  • Create meaningful conversations
  • Raise awareness/network within networks


Remember we need each other

Because it is in those bonds of love

……that we find a reason to live


Shishir Lakhani