For nearly two years, David Breaux, also know as the “Compassion Guy,” has been standing on the corner of Third and C streets in downtown Davis with a pen and paper, asking passersby to write down their definition of compassion.
Breaux, a Stanford graduate, was inspired to do the project after hearing Karen Armstrong, a former nun, speak about the crucial need for compassion in our chaotic world.
“Compassion goes beyond communities, it recognizing others’ humanity. The world is drawn together and yet farther apart because of compassion,” Armstrong has said.
After hearing the speech, Breaux began to think of his own definition of compassion, and was eager to see how those around him felt.
“At that moment, I had rarely thought of my own concept of compassion,” he said during a recent interview. “Over the course of a week, I was dissatisfied with it. That is when I began to get a collective definition.”
After hearing the thoughts of others, Breaux’s ideas began to shift. After weeks of collecting definitions, Breaux made the move to Davis, where his compassion project continues.
“I noticed that it fostered human relations between myself and others, it fostered ideas on compassion; I noticed that I was learning about compassion, that it was a positive response to it,” Breaux said.
He’s gathered definitions of compassion from more than 3,000 people. With the help and encouragement of Davis community members and volunteers at Grace House, Breaux has published them in “Compassion Davis, CA: A Compilation of Concepts on Compassion.” All entries are anonymous.
Breaux’s own definition of compassion? It’s ever-changing, but “currently, my concept of compassion is growth toward truth,” he said.
The community’s response? The common themes are love, empathy and kindness.
* “Compassion is caring for others without being selfish. It’s knowing that everyone needs to be treated with kindness and respect.”
* “Compassion is a hug.”
* “Compassion is our basic human awareness toward one another.”
* “Compassion is the act of thinking beyond yourself and caring about something that truly matters and cannot be given a monetary value.”
* “Compassion — loving without loving, knowing without knowing, being without being.”
Breaux believes his book will help bring compassion to the forefront of people’s lives.
“It will always be compassion for me,” he said. “As long there is unnecessary violence in the world and unnecessary suffering, there will always be a need for a greater understanding of compassion.”
The book is published by The Printer, an independent printing company in South Davis. Breaux is selling copies for $15 each at Third and C streets.