(this is the last picture taken of Charlie before he tore all the tendons in his knee on May 22, 2006)I love the Best Friends.org website and organization. I think it's a fabulous group. They really are the most compassionate and forward thinking corporation in the United States as far as I'm concerned - much more so than the Humane Society of the US or the ASPCA and I'm not even going to even say anything about PETA or the flip side of that the Centre for Consumer Freedom or the National Alliance for Pet Owners.
But the Best Friends People are sponsoring this day they call a "day of compassion towards animals" on June 23rd. A day we can all practice a random act of compassion on an animal and I think it's an awesome idea. I'm going to copy what their website says because think it says way better anything that I can write. Being a Buddhist I think it's also really special that they've based it on something that the Dalai Lama has taught:
The Dalai Lama was once asked to explain his religion. In response, he said that his entire religious belief system could be summed up in one word: compassion.
Compassion is not the same as pity. Pity allows us to stand apart from suffering and to commiserate over one another's pain. Compassion, on the other hand, becomes possible when we create a space in our own hearts for another to enter.
Compassion means allowing ourselves to be fully present to another human being. It requires that we give up the dividing lines and distinctions that we create between "us" and "them".
Of all the major problems that threaten the future of our existence on this planet – war and hatred, poverty and greed, environmental degradation and disease – the greatest crisis we face is a spiritual one.
The most urgent task of our age is to move beyond the boundaries of race, gender, religion and ideology to contemplate the human face of the "other." It is the task of allowing ourselves to be touched and transformed by those we consider "outsiders," "unclean" and "enemies." It is the task of making ourselves vulnerable enough to hear their stories, feel their pain and understand their hopes and dreams.
It is easy to fear and hate an abstraction or stereotype. The temptation to demagoguery is easy and scapegoats are plentiful in a world where 30-second sound bites pass for in-depth analysis and screaming headlines substitute for news.
It is easy to divide people into warring tribes when most of us are already so cut off from one another. In the normal course of our daily routines, many of us rarely encounter anyone of a different race, class or religion – except, of course, for those nearly invisible people who clean our buildings, cut our grass, flip our burgers or bag our groceries.
And because we know so little about the world outside of our comfort zones we are easy targets for the purveyors of fear and hatred. We are easily tempted by those who offer us black and white choices – us versus them, good verses evil – those who are with us and those who are against us.
But this path can only lead to disintegration, fragmentation and ultimately to death. None of the great challenges facing our planet and our species can be adequately addressed until we can reach across the great human-made divides and recognize ourselves in the faces of those we think of as "strangers," "competitors" and "enemies."
Compassion is the one religious impulse that can unite the entire human family. It is the one creed that can bridge the divide and make it possible for people of all faiths and no faith to create unity out of all the glorious diversity that God and the human spirit has created.
All across America, thousands of people will commit acts of kindness toward animals during this year’s Best Friends Day and Best Friends Weekend. United in their determination to make the world a better place, they will show their cities and towns and communities how these acts of kindness to animals can make a difference.
And these acts of kindness will be recorded on the “Kindness Odometer” located on the Best Friends Network site: http://network.bestfriends.org.
Every individual act will move the odometer forward in real time – and everyone, everywhere will be able to see they are no longer alone in their feelings of compassion toward animals.
Ninety-six percent of Americans now say that animals should never be abused. Could we be at a classic tipping point?
Animals are our best friends, and 89 percent of Americans believe we have a moral obligation to protect them. Even more – 96 percent – say that animals should never be abused.
Still, millions of homeless pets still die in shelters every year. Hundreds of millions more die in experimental laboratories, and literally billions in factory farms.
Social scientists say a dichotomy like this represents a classic “tipping point.” The old ways still persist, but public opinion is driving for change.
Together, on Best Friends Weekend, we can drive that change some more. All across the country, we’re inviting people to do a single, simple act of kindness. Take an elderly neighbor’s dog for a walk; help out at your local rescue group or humane society; donate to your favorite animal cause; eat a vegetarian meal; make an appointment, if you haven’t already, to get your pet fixed.
And, most important, encourage your friends or family to do that, too.
Post your act of kindness on the best friends.org website, and let’s demonstrate together that kindness to animals makes a better world for all of us.
To record your act of kindness and find out more about the Best Friends weekend - go to their website at http://network.bestfriends.org/Campaigns/BFDay/Default.aspx?g=02399b9cba6b4ebd809b2dc6e3d931fc