Extending Our Circle of Compassion: Embodied Inclusivity

by Mike Schut, Communications Manager

When I step back from the daily news, from the evidence all around us of cruelty, climate change, extreme inequity, and racism (to name but a few), one of humankind’s trajectories that provides me with some measure of comfort and courage is that it’s possible to see our history as one in which the circle encompassing those seen as worthy of compassion, of moral consideration, has expanded. Think of women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, marriage equality—movements resulting in legislation recognizing the rights of women, African-Americans, and same-sex couples. Consider the Endangered Species Act, a remarkable law that actually recognizes the value and role that other species play in our lives.

All very imperfect and incomplete, but all very significant in expanding that circle of compassion. And I think it’s important to note that compassion is sometimes misunderstood as primarily a feeling. But compassion is also embodied, practiced. Frederick Buechner (in Wishful Thinking) defines compassion as, “…the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

So for Buechner, compassion is a feeling, perhaps we could call is empathy: “feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin.” But it is not only a feeling, it is “the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” So embodying compassion would look like moving toward a society where all of us have access to greater peace and joy—which sounds like embodying justice.

Buechner is pointing in the direction of equity and inclusion—which were the topics of the Recovery Café Network’s (RCN) last Commitment Coffee Hour.

Titled “Creating Inclusivity in our Latin and Deaf Communities,” the hour featured the experiences of three leaders from two cafes, Vince of Recovery Café Clark County (WA) and Lisa and Chris from Recovery Cafe Longmont (CO). They spoke about their experiences pioneering and spearheading innovative ways of creating inclusivity in the Spanish-speaking and deaf communities.

Recovery Café Longmont   

The conversation was gentle, powerful, and organic as the three presenters spoke about their experiences serving the diverse needs of the communities around them. As Vince said, “Anyone who comes in and looks uncomfortable because of their identity—we are going to rally around that person. Radical hospitality is meeting people where they are and making them feel welcome.”

In the process of extending compassion and belonging, these Cafés are educating themselves about the barriers that, in this case, the deaf and Spanish-speaking communities face in even considering recovery. “Be curious,” Chris said as he described how he asks permission to ask questions. And when he gets that permission, the resulting conversations often form a bridge between himself and the other person and their culture. That curiosity leads to greater cultural competency.

Every Recovery Café seeks to embody radical hospitality, to express love, and to say, “You are welcome here, as you are.” And so every Café will need to find out what the groups in their communities need in order to feel that welcome—just as they are.


RCN’s Commitment Coffee Hours (CCH) are bi-monthly times set aside to explore and learn about the Network’s six Core Commitments. June’s CCH explored the sixth commitment: “Work to end systemic racism and socioeconomic inequality so every person can thrive.”

Recovery Café Network published an article in a recent newsletter about Recovery Café Longmont’s work with the Latino/x community. Check it out HERE.

Photo at the top of the article is from Recovery Café Clark County (WA): Terrance, Steven, and Monse visiting together.

Welcoming Spanish speakers to Recovery Café Longmont
Recovery Café Longmont