Elk Grove: A City of Compassion

Brenda Kress

As a member of the Compassion Elk Grove (CEG) board, I was standing up front before the Elk Grove City Council Members last night with my hardworking colleagues, listening as each spoke about how Elk Grove is a compassionate city and why it should now declare it formally through a Resolution, when I was struck by the city emblem behind the council members.  It read: Elk Grove, incorporated July 1, 2000.

The City Council unanimously ratified a Resolution declaring Elk Grove a city of compassion in the year of its 20th anniversary and in the year 2020.  How awesome is that!

Compassion Elk Grove (www.compassionelkgrove.org) is comprised of a group of citizens who love this city and wanted to know how we could ensure our people thrive and have the support that is needed.  We began the process of developing this program through conversations with people asking this question:  What does a compassionate Elk Grove look like to you?

As stated on our website, compassion is love for Earth and its people, put into action.  Or, in this case, the love of Earth and the citizens of Elk Grove, put into action.

The action will come as each program in our city is looked at through the lens of compassion and we ask ourselves: Is this healthy for our citizens?  Is this helpful or hurtful?  Are our citizens thriving and if not, what is needed? 

What’s next?  One program that the City will immediately implement is the Compassion Awards.  People, companies and organizations could be nominated for this Award and then recognized at a subsequent City Council Meeting.  Members of CEG would be responsible for interviewing candidates and then making the recommendation to the City.  We will share with you the link for applying as soon as it is up on the city website.

There are other ideas being developed and will roll out during this year.  Yet, what’s really needed is you. All citizens of Elk Grove will be the ones that really declare this a City of Compassion through our actions and interactions with others.

What does a compassionate Elk Grove look like to you?  Email us at info@compassionelkgrove.org or follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/compassionelkgrove  As we move further into the year, check back to see what activities are being planned and how you can be involved.

Compassion is a group activity:

You give, I receive.  I give, you receive.  It’s good for everyone!

Stars in the Darkness of the Winter Solstice, 2019

William Myers seated wearing a red and black plaid shirt.
William Myers

When I spoke with Karl Eric Knutsson in Stockholm in mid-1999, he had recently retired from the United Nations, finishing his career as a senior official and important seminal thinker for UNICEF. I was in town to help Save the Children Sweden re-think its international program in anticipation of the year 2000. My job was to help it answer the question, “What new threats to children’s survival and well-being should Save the Children expect to confront in the arriving 21st Century?”  It made sense to put the question to Karl Eric, who by virtue of his UN experience had an extraordinary global perspective.

After a pause to think, he began his reply by relating an experience from the mid 1980’s. According to him, the UN Secretary General, concerned by the UN’s disadvantageous posture of typically addressing emergencies only after they had already occurred, wondered if it might not be possible to predict and prepare for some of them in advance. Karl Eric was assigned to help assemble a confidential interdisciplinary meeting of top world experts in crucial topics such as population dynamics, food and water, armament and security, political stability, health and education, changes in climate and natural resources, and so forth. He described how, over a few days, the group mapped the course of many foreseeable challenges that would not only intensify with time, but would increasingly interact in complicated and highly destructive ways. He explained how, exacerbated by population pressure and climate change, this mounting complex of overlapping problems would gather force until, around 2030, it would burst upon the world as a furious, many-faceted “perfect storm”. He pointed out that the international system has no institutions able to manage a challenge of such overwhelming magnitude and complexity, and therefore the task of coming up with measures needed to preserve human civilization in the face of such a cataclysm would fall on children already born and known to us. After telling this story Karl Eric grew silent, lost in thought, and then quietly added, “It is too late just to save the children; now we have to prepare them to save us.”

“Perfect Storm 2030” remains on course, and observing scientists suggest we may now be entering it. Of course, we silent and boomer generations, who have made this planetary mess and don’t want to clean up after ourselves, have not even “prepared the children” to take on the formidable task we bequeath them. We have mostly abandoned them. So, more attentive than we to both scientific evidence and moral imperatives, the kids have on their own set about preparing and organizing themselves. Not only to save themselves, but graciously also us, the big mess-makers, too. They are even providing crucial social leadership that we will not, the majority from girls and young women, including a preternaturally visionary teen-ager on the autism spectrum. Youth, more than adults, are providing the mobilizing and moral leadership that might just possibly save us humans from ourselves.  But too many of we adults ignore or even actively oppose them, standing in the way of our own salvation that they generously offer us. Pretentious claims to inherent “wisdom of elders” to instruct the young ring hollow in the gathering gale of the climate crisis. The wisdom that most counts may now be coming from the young more than the old.

Recognizing that we must start from humility, how can we elders who care about the kids and also seek to redeem a piece of our generation’s legacy best help them?  First of all, we can follow their example; there is nothing wrong with being faithful followers. That can include being good allies, opening doors to voice and influence for the young where we have the connections and power.

Above all, we have the gift of love to offer in their support. In September I spoke with a young climate activist in Bergen, Norway. She complained that youth protests against national addiction to fossil fuels are being received by government with patronizing words instead of serious action. Norway is a recognized leader in the technologically advanced electrification of its own national infrastructure, but its economic status as one of the world’s richest countries rests on oil exports by its hugely profitable North Sea petroleum industry. The kids are challenging this contradiction. I asked her if she and her youth colleagues sometimes felt abandoned and alone in their fight for a sustainable future.  Her face brightened and her eyes danced as she responded, “Oh no, not at all!  Our grandparents have organized to support us!

Would that all of our children and grandchildren everywhere could feel so loved and supported in their quest to save the planet for all of us!

We elders can make that happen.

William Myers, December 2019

What Can I Do?

I am often asked by my friends – mainly my White friends, “What can I do?” “How can I make an impact?” “I’m only one person, and the issues are so many and big!”

“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

– Margaret Mead

The issues are many, and they are big. Powered by a system of hatred dating back to slavery. From where I sit, they seem to be driven by hate and fueled by fear. And the hate and fear are rooted in a genuine lack of understanding and knowledge about people that do not look, think or act like you. You don’t know the other person, so you believe the “fake news” you hear about them. So it goes without saying that having compassion for someone you know not, is a far stretch.

But not impossible!

Two people smiling
Copyright Uplift People of Elk Grove

Here in Elk Grove, at Uplift People of Elk Grove, we are working to do just that, striving to live compassionately with our neighbors. Not sympathetic pity, but genuine concern for what matters in the lives of others. We listen, find understanding and share feelings with another. And when necessary and possible, we act on that shared understanding to create a better community.

“The first step to any form of action is awareness.”

– Mellody Hobson, Investment Expert

Uplift People of Elk Grove is a new initiative, organized in 2017 by a concerned group of Elk Grove citizens wanting an end very much to poverty in Elk Grove. For this group, it was not about giving people a fish, but instead teaching them how to fish.

Woman at meeting picking up bag
Courtesy Uplift People of Elk Grove (all rights reserved)

The mission of the program is to break the cycle of poverty for low-income residents of Elk Grove by building well-being – rethinking poverty, reframing solutions in partnership with the community. Through education and intentional relationships, our goal is to restore abundance for families and individuals and bridge the cultural and socioeconomic class lines that divide us. Program goals are achieved through free weekly evening meetings open to families with children, and inclusive of a family-style meal, followed by education for adults and children separately.

Every Tuesday evening 30 folk, children and adults, gather at Elk Grove United Methodist Church to build relationships that are not based on being color blind but based on being “color brave” (Mellody Hobson, TED2014, March 2014). These are people that don’t think, look or act alike. What we do have in common is a desire for change, on a personal and community level, evidenced through conversations, sharing of life events, common courtesies, genuine caring, and much compassion.

If you know of someone that is living in poverty and might benefit from the program as a Champion for Change or If you’d like to share in the experience by becoming an Ally, please contact Teri McClanahan, 916-241-3052 or Jeff Teague, 916-900-6991 for additional information.

Teri McClanahan head and shoulders shot
Teri McClanahan

Teri McClanahan is a Co-Coordinator for the Uplift People of Elk Grove Initiative. She is also a blogger and professional grant writer of 20 years. If you’d like more information about Ms. McClanahan, you can read her blogs at www.terimcclanahan.net or get information on her grant writing at www.tdmcclanahan.com.

A Compassionate Elk Grove City Charter

What is a compassionate community?  “In a Compassionate Community, the needs of all the inhabitants of that community are recognized and met, the well-being of the entire community is a priority, and all people and living things are treated with respect.  More simply, in a Compassionate Community, people are motivated by compassion to take responsibility for and care for each other.”

This definition comes from a global movement called The Charter for Compassion (https://charterforcompassion.org/charter) which seeks to inspire cities and other communities to act more compassionately and conscientiously in benefit of all their citizens. A number of U.S. cities have by joined either by affirming the international charter or a version of it adapted to their local needs.  Here is a full description of what it means to become a compassionate city: https://charterforcompassion.org/communities. By a vote of the city council, Sacramento became one of them in July of last year. Here is a short video about how the city of Louisville, Kentucky, one of the most liveable cities in the U.S., thinks of itself as a compassionate city: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WknF8LudzGE.

What would a more compassionate city of Elk Grove look like?  What  would it do more of, and what would it do less of?  Around the world, including in the U.S., some cities have begun to define themselves as “compassionate cities”, developing descriptions of what that means and setting goals to reach.  Almost always that includes tolerance for and appreciation of racial, social, and cultural diversity. But a city charter of compassion may address much more, such as care for the less fortunate, or equal access by all children to a good education, or economic and employment opportunity to the poor and unemployed.

In the near future, Compassion Elk Grove will begin asking whether Elk Grove should develop a charter of compassion of its own, and what should be in it. The place to start is by recognizing that much compassion already exists in our city that can serve as inspiration to build on. Therefore, we will start by taking note of people and organizations who already show compassion in our city, letting the public know what they do, and asking what we can learn from them. We will post articles and pictures about them on this blog page. If you would like to suggest a person or organization to cover as an example of compassion at work in Elk Grove, please drop an email to info@compassionelkgrove.org.  We look forward to hearing from you.  In the meantime, check this page for new examples of Elk Grove compassion as we add to them.



For the children…for the youth…for all of us. Compassion comes to life when we seek to grow it in our relationships and in our community. Compassion is the antidote for fear and for anger and for hate.

Compassion Elk Grove is a new effort to support and enhance what is already alive within our community. We seek to support and enhance compassionate living in our community. In our conversations, in our relationships, in our planning, we support growing this community together compassionately.

This blog will become a place for stories of compassion, a place for inspiration and resources, a place to connect and to support our work together to make Elk Grove a city and region which expresses compassion in our care and support of all of us. Elk Grove is a planetary city with persons from all over the world seeking a healthy and safe life for our families and our neighbors.

Join us in growing this effort. Join us in affirming and raising compassion in Elk Grove.

The first of many,

Bill, Greg, and Paul