I just returned from serving as the lead organizer at a nine-day Nonviolent Communication (NVC) International Intensive Training (IIT).  Each morning the entire group (59 people) gathered for a “Remembering” – an opportunity to remember the purpose of NVC.

One morning, a participant shared this excerpt from When I Die by Nikki Giovanni:

and if ever i touched a life i hope that life knows
that i know that touching was and still is and will always
be the true

I started crying.

I had spent a previous day in an emergency room tending to the well-being of a participant who had fallen face first on the concrete and the person who had witnessed the fall and was unable to prevent it.

When I came upon the scene, I knew what was mine to do – go to the hospital and stay until she was ready to come back or was admitted.  This knowing came from a still, small voice deep within.

Yes, I was the “lead organizer” and one might assume it was my “responsibility” to go.  But that is not what propelled me to go. Nor was it what guided me to empathize and coach the woman who watched her fall so that she could be at peace and make choices that were life-serving in the present moment.

I have learned over the years to listen to and take action aligned with the deep knowing that bubbles up from inside.  When I listen and do the next “right thing” (or as my friend and minister Jude Campbell says “do the next indicated thing.”), I am often guided to act in a way that touches a life – sometimes another’s life; sometimes my own; most often both.

This, I think, is the revolution.  Taking action aligned with our deepest knowing is the revolution.

Really.  Truly.

We are compassionate beings.  We thrive when we live in a way where everyone’s needs are valued and met through compassionate giving – out of the joy of contributing to another human being (Marshall Rosenberg, founder NVC).  For me, listening to the still, small voice puts me into immediate contact with my compassionate nature and allows me to act from there rather than fear, the list of “shoulds”, or whatever false sense of obligation that is present.

Think about it. How often does following our knowing and contributing to another human being NOT lead us into connection with others?  NOT guide us to make an amend; offer a helping hand or a compassionate ear?  NOT lead us to send money to support a relief effort, a person in need?  NOT meet needs of our own and stimulate us to feel alive and happy in the process?

It may not seem to in the moment, especially when we are guided to do the laundry or take a nap!  But even those actions of self-care allow us to have the physical and emotional resources to be present when we are called to serve another and/or ourselves.

Later in the retreat, I discovered that the woman who fell had often been in hospitals and other difficult situations alone.  That for her, my being there met needs for comfort and care that had rarely been met by those closest to her. I discovered that her experience of being genuinely cared for (by me and others) and of her needs mattering started an inner revolution that will effect how she lives the rest of her life.

As she (and others) articulated to me how they appreciated my passionate and compassionate service, the way in which I seamlessly took into account a wide range of needs while being organized and making decisions quickly, my facilitation and coaching skill, and the simple presence of my “Emilah-ness”, I received the gifts self-awareness, self-acceptance, contribution and care.   That started a revolution in me; effecting how I will live my life from here on out.

I touched a life and started a revolution. What revolution are you going to start today?

NVC is one of many tools that help me access my compassionate nature.  For more information on NVC, go to

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