Napa County wants to be known for its compassion as well as its wine.
The county Board of Supervisors passed a proclamation on Tuesday declaring Napa as a compassionate community. Peace, caring and the Golden Rule of treating others as you would like to be treated are to prevail.
“We recognize that building more, doing more and earning more will not make Napa County a better place,” the proclamation said. “Our true wealth is the people of our community.”
The county is calling on all residents to embrace compassion in their private and public lives.
County Public Health Nursing Director Laura Keller told supervisors that modern life can leave adults, seniors and children with no one to relate to, creating relationship poverty. She cited research showing busy, stressful lives can leave people preoccupied with their own concerns, making it harder for them to show empathy.
“We only have to watch the news with strife, violence and brutality nationwide and worldwide to know we need more compassion,” Keller said.
The agenda item had its roots in religious scholar Karen Armstrong’s 2008 effort to launch an international Charter for Compassion movement. Some 57 cities are participating, from Santa Monica to Detroit to Apeldoorn in the Netherlands to Banyuwangi in Java, Indonesia.
“We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world,” the charter says in part.
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The Napa Valley Center for Spiritual Living presented the charter at the 2012 Thrive Napa Valley symposium. In 2013, the charter was presented at a Napa County Public Health Division retreat, where members signed it and committed to having a compassionate health department, a county report said.
In addition, Thrive Napa Valley members formed a book club to read Armstrong’s book “Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life” and support each other in trying to be compassionate. That, in turn, led to the formation of the Compassionate Napa Valley group that meets monthly.
Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht brought the issue to the Board of Supervisors. He said compassion is more than the county doing things in the medical and housing arena, but also an individual effort.
Mary Poeck, a co-organizer for Compassionate Napa Valley, told supervisors that among the possible next steps are having local towns adopt Armstrong’s international charter and creating an annual event focused on compassionate action in the county.
Supervisor Mark Luce said that Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount commanded people to love even their enemies, pray for those who persecute them and bless those who curse them.
“I found for myself there is beauty in every individual, literally every individual, especially those who persecute you and are otherwise difficult to get along with,” Luce said. “It’s hard to sometimes see that … by God’s creation, there is beauty in everyone. We just have to find it and support it.”
Poeck asked everyone in the audience who came to support compassion to stand up. Most people in the packed chamber did so.
“Who isn’t here to be compassionate?” Wagenknecht said with a smile.