In his Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961 , President John F. Kennedy hinted at what a compassionate citizen must look like. There he said:
"Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms...but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation....--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself....
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you- -ask what you can do for your country."
President Kennedy was calling for a different kind of action. He was calling for what I have begun to call "True Service."
True Service is dedicated work done in the world which includes a consideration of its effect on others. It is not charity. It rests on a redefinition of work itself. In practical terms, this means that any task can be done in one-way or the other. Any job, any work, can be done by using the power of that effort solely for one's own benefit or by looking out for the benefit that job's real purpose has for others: whether it is President of the United States, a football coach or a garbage collector. True service is achieved when any job unites power and purpose in benefit to the public.
The Compassionate Society
When a massive tragedy, like Sandy Hook occurs our compassion as a society has a tendency to come rushing to the fore. There is nothing wrong with this. However, compassion is more than just a feeling. Compassion is a value that can form the basis for every day action -- not just charitable action or emergency response. Compassion can and must become a new preferred basis for action. Compassion, instead of rushing forth in response to tragedy, must become that steady flow which forms the devotional basis of True Service.
[i] Motivation and Personality, at 217-218.
[ii] European flights jump as volcanic ash clears and Germany, France reopen airspace, by Edward Cody and Karla Adam, Washington Post, April 22, 2010.