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   WZM Award for Compassion 


Ruth Handy  presenting WZM  Award for Compassion


WZM Award # 4 presented on June 12, 2006 to Diedre Whitmore, class valedictorian at Banning High School

Her essay is as follows:








Essay by Diedre Whitmore

Webster defines compassion as "sorrow or pity aroused by the suffering or misfortune of another." Society, on the other hand, has taken this sorrow or pity and added new dimensions, giving the word more meaning than the simple feeling of sympathy. The word compassion has taken on an active connotation in America's culture today. It is usually assigned to people that perform services or actively seek out help for others, instead of simply pitying them. In order to be compassionate, society has determined that the compassion must be shown through work and effort, and in doing so, society has greatly increased the significance and honor of compassion.

As I was growing up my greatest fear was not spiders or the dark, but rather public places and being around large groups of people. I was terrifyingly shy and therefore afraid of new situations and meeting new people. It wasn't until I started high school and began to get involved that this started to change. My love for science led me to join the Envirothon team, and in doing so, also happened to force me into learning to give an oral presentation with a limited amount of preparation. With a lot of practice and some new techniques, I developed the ability to speak more comfortably in front of an audience. The confidence this gave me helped to lessen my fears of speaking in class and other group settings. Surprisingly, this small change opened a whole new perspective in my life. I was finally able to be more comfortable around strangers and in turn, I was able to notice more. I developed connections and friendships with many different people I wouldn't have been able to talk to as a child. With each person I met I realized how great my community was and I began to acquire a real compassion for the individuals.

Community service projects through Interact exposed me to the less fortunate within my city and enhanced this sense of compassion. Because of this, I felt that I was extremely fortunate to have been a part of each assignment Interact tackled the last three years. Meeting and working with the volunteers allowed me to really learn what the word compassion meant. As president of Interact I was able to team up with some of the most caring, interesting and definitely compassionate people in my community. They were so eager to help and worried about doing all that they could for the families, that it was inspiring for me to be around. I learned how great it felt to make a difference. Whereas in middle school I had always felt I was a caring person, I never would have called myself compassionate until I joined Interact and actually started doing something for those who were suffering. While caring is simply a foundation for compassion, I have learned the importance of action. As a freshman I had that foundation but lacked the confidence to build upon it. Extracurricular activiities like Envirothon and Interact gave me the skills to have confidence and in turn, compassion.


Ruth Ratna Handy, LCSW
(661) 242-6956


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