Speaking of Compassion

Published: November 29, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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One of the most compelling stories of compassion comes from Peter Westbrook. An Olympic medal-winning fencer, Westbrook sees an inextricable connection between being your best and being compassionate. His journey through anger and pain to compassion is a remarkable example for all of us to strive to demonstrate in our own lives.

“I stand foremost for serving the Creator. I stand for being the best that I can be. This can only be done by ridding yourself of old scars, wounds or idiosyncratic ways that stand in the way of serving the Creator, yourself, and others. My basic premise operates from this mold as much as possible.

“When my mother was beaten and killed on a New Jersey bus for no reason, it allowed me to stand up for my convictions. I prayed to the Creator that the person who killed my mother would learn to appreciate other people’s lives more and also her own. When the prosecutor’s office wanted to put her away for many, many years, I disagreed in hope that if she could be remorseful, she could be used better on the outside serving humanity rather than in prison serving no one. I asked for her sentence to be shortened and it was.

“What I also received from my mother’s death is a completion of myself. I have a finer appreciation of sadness, loss, and compassion for others that one cannot understand unless it happens to you. However, most of the time the loss of a loved one through violence makes the person living experience so much anger, pain, and rage that it sometimes destroys them or stifles their growth, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It had the opposite effect on me. It made me more complete. God is good to me.”

Peter teaches fencing, discipline, and much more, to inner city kids through the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York City.

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