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Mindful : October 2016
activities, building beds for children, delivering bicycles to refugees, and packaging more than 44,000 meals for Kids Against Hunger. A touch- ing moment came last year when Fischer arrived unannounced at the Academy of Shawnee and awarded volunteer Gabriele Shivers a trip to her senior prom. The gift included not only her prom fees, but also a sparkling-white sleeveless gown and a glam hairdo. “I was pretty that day,” she says, “and I felt really loved.” In November 2011, Louisville became the sev- enth city in the world to adopt the international Charter for Compassion (see our Q&A with the Charter’s founder Karen Armstrong, page 32) and made a 10-year commitment to build a community where compassion is an integral part of everyday life. The Charter’s board has named Louisville its Model City of Compassion four years in a row, and Fischer’s team has advised more than 40 cities worldwide on how to pick up their game. Early on, Fischer challenged Seattle, the first adopter, to a competition to determine which city was more compassionate, based on volun- teer statistics over a set period of time. It was mostly a tongue-in-cheek challenge. Fischer’s team sent their rivals a bumper sticker that read: “Seattle Soon To Be the Louisville of the West,” and when Seattle’s team leader, Jon Ramer, came to town, Fischer’s father, George, boasted, “ We’re going to whup your ass in compassion.” As it turned out, that’s exactly what the Louis- ville team did. But in the spirit of compassion, everybody agreed to call it a draw. That contest inspired Ramer to create the Compassion Games, an annual series of events involving more than 400,000 volunteers from 34 countries. A key to Louisville’s success has been the inclusive way the campaign has been structured. Rather than use a command-and-control model, Fischer and his team put together constellations of volunteers from a broad range of fields. “To lead this campaign, I’ve had to throw out my playbook of all the leadership tactics I’ve ever learned,” says co-host Tom Williams, a respected attorney. “Compassion is generative, unlike the legal business, where one bad act often leads to another. This job is more like gardening than running a big corporation. We plant seeds of encouragement and good things happen.” So far, the campaign has attracted more than 100 organizations, ranging from UPS, Brown-Forman and Metro United Way to smaller groups such as ChooseWell, Global Game Changers, and the Center for Interfaith Relations. The campaign has also generated a number of innovative ideas, including: • A coalition between Louisville Metro Corrections and other agencies to create a transition program that provides cloth- ing, medication, bus tickets, emergency housing, and mental health assistance → Left: On the last day of the Week of Service, volunteers prepared more than 500 disaster kits available for rapid use in emergencies. Right: The Build- A-Bed project was started by Kentucky AmeriCorps, with support from nearly a dozen local companies. October 2016 mindful 67 society