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Got Compassion?

Hi. I’m Walking Bob. I was walking toward Central Park after dropping some letters off at the downtown Post Office when I first saw him, standing tall and alone on the southeast corner of 3rd and C streets, holding a notebook. As I drew closer I thought, “Is he panhandling or trying to get me to sign a petition or join a movement? Should I just go a different way to avoid him or try to walk by when he’s talking with someone else?”

I decided to check it out for myself and the man simply asked me if I was willing to share my definition of compassion. No quick response came to me so I said, “Not right now,” and walked on, uncompassionately.

Fortunately for me, I came by later, wrote down my definition, and struck up a conversation with the man, who I learned was named David. I had the privilege of sharing breakfast with him a few days later and thought you should know what a fascinating man he is so that any of you who have avoided him in the past will take the chance to share your definition of compassion or just say hello and talk with David about compassion and what he describes as his “duty” to collect and share views on compassion.

He started this quest when he lived in Oakland after seeing a speech on compassion by Karen Armstrong, a former nun who created a “Charter for Compassion” based on the idea that “compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethnical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be trusted.” You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJMm4RAwVLo

David spent four or five days getting the project started, but didn’t begin to think of it as his “duty in life” until he moved to Davis in May. He started the fairly regular routine of standing on the corner most of the day beginning in June and has collected over 3,300 signatures so far. You’ll often see him with a friend’s dog as he “dog-sits” while the friend eats or runs errands nearby. On Saturdays he takes the show on the road and wanders through the Farmers Market to get additional responses. On Sundays he has been attending gatherings at Davis Community Church, sharing his ideas and listening to others within classes held between services.

Using that street corner as his open air office, David is growing the idea of turning this all into a book. He has come across a photographer to capture moments of compassion in Davis, a legal contact to be sure he meets copyright and intellectual property guidelines, a proofreader, and a printer. Funding? “It’s yet to arrive. It will come.”

He is strongly connected to the local homeless community and wants to work not just on portraying the homeless as human, but on helping community leaders to recognize and act on their own humanity so they see people instead of numbers when making decisions about the homeless.

One friend I spoke to said that after she wrote down her definition of compassion and went on with her day, she kept thinking about it and wanting to add this or change that. Then she realized that his prompting had her focusing on compassion all day, and I think that’s just what David would want to happen.

I’ll walk on now, but you might want to stop and let David know what compassion means to you. (Note: Learn more about David in the March 4, 2011 Walking Bob entry “Compassion: The Book”)

10 Responses to Got Compassion?

  1. Kuss May 7, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    I must share with David my concept of compassion and personal happiness:
    One should widen one’s circle of concern and empathy to all living creatures and the whole of nature.
    “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
    “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”
    As compassionate public educators Bob Schultz and I started so long ago in the very non-compassionate, non-empathic environ of a smoggy southern California high school (a lot of walking since then).
    Shalom Aleichem
    Assalamu alaikum
    Shalom Aleichem

  2. Joshua Sullivan May 7, 2010 at 3:58 pm #

    Bob, love the title and concept of your articles. Keep it up!

  3. Bob Schultz May 9, 2010 at 6:34 am #

    Any of you who have checked out the website link I gave in the blog will quickly realize that the video on compassion is by Karen Armstrong, not Karen Robinson. Check it out.

  4. Emily Henderson May 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    Last summer, the high -school members of Acme Theatre Company wrote a 2-minute play about “The Compassion Man” and performed it as a part of their summer production – a collection of short, original plays based on the actor/playwrights real-life experiences of living in Davis.

    One day, the students were preparing for rehearsal at the Vets Theater when David walked by. I think he was a bit taken aback to be accosted by a half-dozen teenagers all running up to tell him that he was to be featured on-stage and begging him to come see their portrayal of his work. He came and I think he enjoyed the show.

    It was really neat to see how David’s work inspired young people’s creativity, who in turn shared it with him and the rest of the audience.

    Thank you, Bob, for sharing his story!

  5. Angela Haeusler May 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm #


    Thank you so much for this wonderful story. I have seen David so many times and had the exact same thoughts you described at the beginning of the article. Next time, I will not walk away, next time I want to share and be compassionate. In this and other situations! It’s been eye-opening.

  6. Ann Murray Paige May 11, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    Bob I love this post. I have given David my idea of compassion too. Thanks for putting a back story to this colorful Davis fixture.

  7. David Breaux May 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    started a new site geared towards what’s going on with compassion in downtown davis and elsewhere. check out


    if you get a chance.

  8. Rebecca Tryon May 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    This is awesome. I’ve walked by Dave several times and never stopped to see what his purpose was, and now I will. GREAT idea for an article.

  9. Bob Schultz May 15, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    “This is awesome” because I believe David truly sees this as his duty in life right now and I think he is making an impact on those who are willing to share with him. Thanks so much for your kind words and do stop by to talk with David and share your thoughts on compassion.

  10. Lora May 25, 2010 at 7:33 pm #

    Wow… I’ve seen David standing on the corner frequently enough to wonder what he is waiting for. Thank you for sharing his insights and his name. As we speak, I have growing compassion about his mission. Few journey so diligently.