In 1997, Scott Plous, a psychology professor at Wesleyan University and Executive Director of Social Psychology Network, developed an action teaching assignment in which students are challenged to behave as compassionately as possible for 24 hours and then analyze the experience. He called this assignment the "Day of Compassion."
The purpose of the assignment is to help students understand compassion—and barriers to compassion—in their daily life.
As a result of the assignment, students have reportedly resolved conflicts with estranged family members, helped refugees and homeless strangers, rescued animals, volunteered at soup kitchens, donated to food drives, and carried out many other acts of kindness. Students also frequently report positive social reactions to their acts of compassion and a desire to continue carrying out such acts in the future.
The Compassionate Hearts UNITED Foundation wants to join forces with Professor Plous and would like to invite students around the Polk County area to participate in the "Day of Compassion" project.
Instructions on the project:
1) Complete your day of compassion. Students are asked to "live each minute of that day in as compassionate a way as possible. In other words, for a full 24-hour period you should do your best to reduce suffering, help other people in need, be considerate and respectful, and avoid causing harm to any living being."
2) Write a 500-word essay answering the following questions:
- How did you define compassion, and who were the recipients of your efforts?
- If your behavior was different than normal, which person did you like more: the "Day of Compassion you" or the "normal you"? If you preferred the "Day of Compassion you," what are the psychological factors that prevent this "you" from coming out?
- How did others respond to your compassion? Do you think they noticed a difference in your behavior?
- If you wanted to encourage others to behave as you did during the Day of Compassion, what techniques would you use?
- What is your message to other people about having compassion for others in the community?
3) Send the essay as an attachment (in PDF version) to us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
4) At the end of each month, we will select a winning essay, and a donation will be made to the nonprofit selected by the student. Winning essays will be featured on our CHUF e-gazette at the end of the year.