Coalition’s umbrella covers bullying; film series underscores compassionWhat started with a concerned group of citizens presenting an anti-bullying film series in fall 2011 has grown into the Coalition for a Compassionate Community with dozens of members focused on a carefully considered mission:
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
What started with a concerned group of citizens presenting an anti-bullying film series in fall 2011 has grown into the Coalition for a Compassionate Community with dozens of members focused on a carefully considered mission:
“…to foster mutual respect and inclusion in our community. We provide educational resources, support and recognition to groups and individuals working to prevent oppression, bullying and abuse.”
“Our first meeting was in November last year,” said Rev. Nancy Holden, chairperson of the CCC group and leader of the local Healthy Communities and Recovery Network.
The growing group presents another film series in October, this time with the broader focus of compassion and how it can dramatically change lives.
CCC encourages everyone to attend any one or all four of the Power of Compassion films presented free at the public library, 140 Union St. They start each of these nights at 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 the audience saw “Grand Torino,” a 2008 movie that lasts about two hours and stars Clint Eastwood. It portrays a Korean War veteran who befriends the unlikeliest of buddies -- a teenage gang member. Holden facilitates an after-film discussion and the message: “Compassion can bridge the gulf between cultures and turn hatred into acceptance.”
Oct. 8 see “Dolphin Tale,” a 2011 movie with a run time of nearly two hours that depicts the true story of young outcasts who work together to save a dolphin that has no tail. The Rev. Ted Tollefson of the Unitarian Universalist Society of River Falls leads the post-film discussion about the message: “Love can heal the wounded and reconcile those who are estranged.”
Oct. 15 brings “Places in the Heart,” a 1984 movie starring Sally Field that is also about two hours long and tells the story of a widow who rebuilds her ranch with the help of a blind white man, a black man and her son. Discussion leader Bettsy Terlinden, a social worker by profession, will lead a talk afterward to explore the message: “Compassion and courage, abetted by grace, make all things new.”
Oct. 22 brings three short films.
“The Red Balloon” lasts 34 minutes and was made in 1954; director of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program Kris Miner leads the after-show talk.
The “Porcelain Unicorn,” a prize-winning holocaust movie, has a run time of three minutes and was made in 2010; and, “The Six Dollar-Fifty Man” lasts about 15 minutes and is from 2009.
Holden said the group found it difficult to whittle down the list of 30 suggested films that address compassion. The members voted democratically until the list was pared to the right size.
“They all show the change that compassion can bring on,” Holden reinforced. “Compassion changes everything.”
Holden said CCC has been meeting monthly and growing steadily. It has also developed a logo, established a chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), planned Unity Day activities at the middle and high schools, and gained non-profit status using Healthy Communities and Recovery Network as a fiscal agent.
Meyer Middle School Counselor Gary Campbell belongs to the CCC and said Oct. 10 is national Unity Day, when the coalition will distribute orange-colored bracelets that say “choose respect” on one side and “unity” on the other.
He and Holden credit the PACER organization with lots of good ideas for promoting unity and calling attention to the national day aimed at bullying prevention.
Campbell said, “We’re encouraging kids to wear orange that day.”
He explained that the middle and high schools will each hold an all-school assembly to explain Unity Day and talk about compassion. Many people, including educators, are collaborating to determine the content of the assembly.
CCC members said they confirmed late Tuesday that Minnesota Vikings football punter Chris Kluwe will be a guest speaker at both school assemblies.
Campbell confirmed that much of CCC’s message blends with the school district’s character-education curriculum. He says that last year’s in-school talks about “character” helped kids realize that the issues extend far beyond bullying.
He said about CCC and its efforts, “It’s all about education.”
Holden said though the group came together as a reaction to news stories about suicides resulting from bullying. She said as the group progressed, it realized that “bullying is just a lack of compassion.”
She said CCC concentrates on the work of 26 churches as well as many clergy and religious groups, many civic and non-profit clubs, multiple businesses, some educational programs, the River Falls Police Department, and many individuals including former mayor Don Richards.
The group said Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence would also be joining the group, which would help it also incorporate domestic violence into the kinds of abuse it addresses.
Terlinden, who moved to River Falls about two years ago, is impressed with the way the group has grown and thinks it reflects well on the community. She said the emphasis is on being proactive rather than reacting to certain behavior and situations.
Holden said the issue of bullying is much like other cultural norms that underwent change, such as civil rights. She said what was once acceptable behavior is no longer acceptable and has been driven underground.
And she says the change usually starts with an individual or group standing up to say: “This is wrong.”
Get more information about the Coalition for a Compassionate Community from Holden via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 715-426-6664.