Tag Archives: compassion

Being everyday-thankful to God increases compassion

Thanksgiving Day is about family, food, sharing, and, most of all, love. Although Thanksgiving is considered a secular holiday, the feast day subconsciously evokes love for one another and an overall heartfelt appreciation that transcends our senses. In paraphrasing our Baltimore Catechism: Our hearts and reason tell us that there’s a God that made us and all things and keeps them in existence. Yes, we all work to provide for ourselves and our families, but ultimately, we know that it is the divine providence that makes the blessings possible in our homes. In Cor.1:10, St. Paul says: “But by the grace of God, I am what I am…”

More important than the feast of food on Thanksgiving Day is the intimate sharing with loved ones that happens around the dinner table. It’s as if one can make tangible the love at the table and scoop it up from a bowl. It’s that overwhelming awareness of how blessed one is, in bounty of love, food, and blessings, that makes Thanksgiving Day so special. However, when the plates are empty, the word “Thanksgiving” is put on pause for another 365 days.

Today, it’s easy to take for granted the blessings that our Good Lord has bestowed upon us because we have come to expect them, like clothes, food, shelter, employment, and more. But we must keep the value of being thankful at the forefront of our minds. Try making a special meal of gratefulness each day with your family. As the family gathers at your table, realize that not everyone in the world has food to eat, or a roof over their heads. Therefore, a heartfelt prayer is very appropriate in asking God to provide for all those less fortunate. In prayer, exclaim to our Good Lord that you are truly grateful for all that He’s provided for you and your family. In making an effort to give thanks, we can appreciate the things that we have been blessed with and, at the same time, impress upon ourselves a sense of compassion and love for the less fortunate. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said: “It’s not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving.”

The true challenge is to remain thankful year-round, not just on Thanksgiving Day. G.K. Chesterton ascribed to such a life: “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or take them with gratitude.”

CHEF NEIL FUSCO is founder of Cucina Antica Foods, Corp., a specialty Italian food-products company. Raised on a farm in San Marzano in southern Italy, he learned his family’s production and cooking with the renowned San Marzano tomatoes they’d grown there since the 1800s. His recently released cookbook is May Love Be the Main Ingredient At Your Table (2017), with amusing and heartfelt stories about faith, family, and recipes from his Old World childhood

Osso Buco (Veal Shank) • serves 4

Ingredients

Salt and pepper to taste
4 veal shanks with bone, about 2 to 3 inches thick½ cup flour
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and cut into ¾-inch rounds
4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch long pieces
½ cup port wine
½ cup Marsala wine
½ onion, diced
1 cup chicken stock, unsalted
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preparation

Salt and pepper each veal piece, and lightly dredge in flour.

Heat extra-virgin olive oil, pan sear each veal piece, and set aside.

In a large baking dish, place seared veal. Spread cut vegetables around the meat, leaving the meat uncovered.

Salt and pepper vegetables to taste.

Add wine and chicken stock.

Cover and bake veal shanks for 1 ½ to 2 hours at 350°F.

For the last half hour of baking, slightly uncover. To check for doneness, pierce a shank with a fork. The meat should pull apart easily and feel soft and tender.

Remove meat from baking dish and keep warm.

Add butter to vegetable mixture, and cook in a sauté pan on high heat until sauce mixture thickens slightly.

Plate veal and serve topped with the vegetable sauce.

Making Room At The Inn

It was the vacation of a lifetime for Paul Wilkes and his wife, Tracy, when they booked a four-week trip to India in 2006. They were simply looking for “something a little different.” Their two boys were grown. Tracy ran a home for underprivileged kids in Wilmington, North Carolina. Paul was a successful author and freelance writer for such notable publications as The Atlantic and the New York Times and had taught journalism at Columbia and Notre Dame.

A side trip on their way to visit a Trappist monastery, however, became the detour of their very lives. That fateful trip resulted in Paul founding the Home of Hope in India with the mission to build homes for orphaned and abandoned girls.

FATEFUL DETOUR

After breakfast at their hotel in the city of Kochi, a personal driver picked up Paul and Tracy for some sightseeing. The driver talked proudly of Kochi’s past and present. Paul was very distracted by the many crippled and maimed children—mostly girls— begging on the streets.

The Wilkes planned to visit a Trappist monastery later that afternoon but at two o’clock, the driver said they had more time so was there anything else they would like to see? “I’m Catholic,” Paul said. “There are so many sick and bedraggled kids begging on the street. What is my Church doing about this?”

“I could tell you,” the driver said, “but, if you don’t mind, sir, I’ll show you.”

Soon, they entered the gates of Prathyasha Bhavan—which translates as Home of Hope— an orphanage that housed 75 girls run by the Salesian Sisters. The gates swung open and a group of girls came running out, smiling and waving at the visitors.

Sisters Sophie and Thresia showed Paul and Tracy around, then offered them some tea. The sisters had asked for nothing, but Paul was ready to offer a donation when he noticed a little girl wearing sunglasses standing near Sister Sophie. It seemed out of place. They can’t even afford rice, Paul thought recalling the meager pantry he had just seen. “Why is she wearing sunglasses?” he asked.

Sister took off the glasses. One of Reena’s eyes was dark and clear, but the other was scarred and dull. “Sister told me that six-year-old Reena was begging on the street with her mother who was mentally ill, when they were separated in the crowd,” Paul said. “Reena was kidnapped by the ‘beggar Mafia,’ who routinely do this sort of thing. They held her down and gouged her eye to make her a “better beggar”. It made her more pitiful, so people would give more money, which the beggar Mafia would immediately take.

“I grimaced in horror,” Paul said. “And she returned my look of horror with the most beautiful and trusting smile I had ever seen.”

Paul and Tracy continued on to the Trappist monastery, but their minds and hearts remained at the Home of Hope. It is mostly girls that beg since boys in India are more valued and expected to work to help support their families. Although the Salesian Sisters gave loving care to the girls, they lived in deplorable conditions and slept on a concrete floor at night.

Before leaving Kochi, Paul felt compelled to see the Home of Hope again and made a silent commitment: Reena, somehow, some way, I want to — I AM – going to make your future better than your horrible past.

TAKING INVENTORY

Back at home, Reena’s smile stayed with Paul just as the words of his third-grade teacher, Sr. Mary at St. Benedict’s in Cleveland, Ohio, had done. “Does it matter that you were alive? Will this world be a better place because of you?” she had asked them.

Paul’s grandparents immigrated from Slovakia. His parents had only sixth-grade educations and his dad worked in a coal mine, but there was always room for more at the dinner table. The lessons of his childhood never left Paul; charity was a constant alongside his successful journalism career.

Paul’s first thought was to raise money for foam mattresses. He succeeded but the mattresses failed. There was no room to store them and they quickly became dirty on the floor. At that point at 68 years old, working on another book [he has 20 in all now] and teaching part-time at the University of North Carolina, Paul had just begun receiving Social Security. The check amount was about the same as his teaching job.

Paul considered that those girls in India did not need mattresses; they needed a respectable home with beds. He decided to live simply on just Social Security and his mission began. Rather than try to repair a dilapidated structure, Paul started raising money for a new home. “I started speaking in parishes and Rotary Clubs and anywhere I could,” Paul said. “I had no administrative experience, but there’s a thing called faith.”

Paul raised enough money and let the Salesian Sisters supervise building the home. Once that was complete, knowing there were 500,000 other girls on the streets of India, Paul kept going. Thirteen years later, 12 homes have been funded and 4,000 girls have been helped. “Some only stayed a few days or weeks until we could figure out their situation and return them to responsible relatives,” Paul said. “Other girls stayed and have gone on to school and/ or married. There are 1,000 girls currently in residence.”

LEGATE BUILDS 12TH HOME

Legates John Clegg and his wife Clare met Paul years ago when he came to speak at their parish, Our Lady of the Star, in Ponte Vedra Beach. The Cleggs are among the founding members of the Jacksonville, Florida Chapter, and John served as president from 2014-2015. “I found Paul’s story in dropping everything to do this remarkable,” John said. “I would call Paul four or five times a year to keep in touch.”

Six months ago, after construction on the 11th home began, John surprised Paul with an offer to completely pay for home number 12. That home, called The Little Flower in Imphal, India, is now under construction.

John explained that supporting the Homes of Hope mission is a natural extension of his years in pro-life work. He appreciates that around 95 percent of all donations go directly to building homes. Paul takes no salary.

“What he does is so simple,” John said. “He finds nuns from the orders of Salesians, Carmelites, and Franciscan Clarists who are already caring for abandoned children, and he builds them a home. It costs around $300,000 and once it’s built, the sisters are self-sufficient. I am hoping this [funding an entire home] will set a trend which will make Paul’s life easier. If money were no object, he could build more homes.”

John writes back and forth with the sisters of The Little Flower home who call him “Uncle” and send their heartfelt thanks. “When the new home is ready, I will go out for the dedication,” he said.

Today, at age 80, Paul sometimes visits during construction and makes a final visit at the time of dedication, frequently accompanied with his wife. “When I go to India, my feet never touch the ground,” he said. “The feeling of those little hands grabbing your hand and the back of your shirt—it doesn’t get any better than that.”

For more information, visit HomeofHopeIndia.org  

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

The importance of virtues in business

WILLIAM H. BOWMAN writes that firms run by virtuous leaders thrive in the marketplace and the results show in their bottom lines. Further, the character of employees is more important than ever, and data show that companies led by men and women of character outperform competitors. Key virtues include integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion . . .

William H. Bowman

William H. Bowman

by William H. Bowman

April’s Harvard Business Review has a fascinating article which notes that we regularly hear about unethical CEOs, but not much about firms led by “highly principled leaders.”

Do such organizations outpace competitors? KRW International conducted a survey and found that firms run by virtuous executives had a two-year return on assets of 9.4%. Those led by ethically challenged leaders returned 1.9%. And what were the key virtues they tracked? Integrity, responsibility, forgiveness, and compassion.

This isn’t the first time the relationship between virtue and corporate performance has been observed. In 2001, Jim Collins published Good to Great, demonstrating that top CEOs consistently practiced two key virtues: personal humility and professional will. He called that “Level 5 Leadership” and said it was primarily responsible for the 5:1 stock performance advantage great companies had over their direct competitors.

With such dramatic results, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to hire employees who took seriously the practice of virtues? We all say we want employees with integrity, but do we seriously address the issue of virtue in our recruiting procedures? If not, we should! Fivefold performance advantages are just too significant to ignore. But how do we do this? Which virtues are the most critical?

I was the president of two companies, each with about 250 employees. One was in the child care business and the other conducted building inspections. Each company decided it would work to acquire the human virtues most important to its customers.

Our first step was assembling a list of human virtues. We were able to identify 135 of them. Recognizing the impossibility of becoming proficient in each, we decided we would choose five. But which five? We needed employees to buy in because this was going to be serious work. So we decided we would ask each of our customers: “What is most valuable in the work that we do for you?” We received over 200 responses from each company’s customers.

We then mapped each customer response to one of the 135 human virtues. At the end of that mapping, we picked the five that received the most comments. For the child care company, the virtues were patience, optimism, tolerance, perseverance and commitment. For the building inspection company, they were diligence, dependability, knowledge, charity and honesty.

With virtues identified, we created an 18-month program where the first three months were reserved for planning, and each successive three-month period was dedicated to learning and practicing each of the five virtues.

Of course, we learn from Aristotle and others that virtues can’t simply be willed, they must be practiced. We become a generous person by practicing acts of generosity, not simply by reading about the value of giving. So for each virtue we created a plan by department so employees would have plenty of opportunity to practice that virtue. One of the real benefits of this process was that the entire company worked on each virtue at the same time, so there was a lot of shared experience.

A few months after the program ended, we went back and measured our key company metrics to see what had changed. We were not expecting to see the dramatic cost savings that accrued at the end of the program. Here are some examples:

• A reduction in turnover at the building inspection company from 20% to 14% six months later, to 8% a year after the program ended. It cost us about $25,000 to replace an employee, so this saved us $750,000. At the child care company, turnover was reduced by 35%.

• When our building inspectors missed a defect, the company had to pay to remediate it. That bleed was running $1 million a year before the program, but fell to $150,000 a year after the program ended, saving $850,000 per year. This savings continued year after year.

• A Fortune 100 company decided to purchase a child-care facility for its own use because it wanted a partner dedicated to helping its employees improve their personal as well as professional lives.

The break-even for each company’s program was less than six months. So we had a company that was more virtuous and that cost much less to run. Truly a virtuous cycle.

The character of employees is more important than ever, and data show that companies led by men and women of character outperform competitors. A conscious plan to help employees develop the virtues important to their business can vastly improve a company’s culture, as well as reduce its costs.

WILLIAM H. BOWMAN is president and CEO of Core Values Group.