Welcome to a very special edition of the Magnum Opus e-newsletter! We are showcasing the winning submissions from our 2019 Writing Contest. The contest was open to all students ages 8–18, whether or not they had experience with IEW’s Structure and Style® writing method. Here are the questions they were asked to answer:
Level A: What is one of your favorite books and why? 1–3 paragraphs
Levels B & C : What does it mean to you to show compassion to others? 4–7 paragraphs
LEVEL A WINNERMy Favorite Book is The Story of Robert Bruce
by Hudson Eberhart, Age 8
The Story of Robert Bruce is my favorite book because he fought battles to establish a free and independent Scotland. Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, was born in 1274 in Scotland and died in 1329. Bravely, three men, among others, volunteered their armies. These men were Andrew Murray, William Wallace, and Edward Bruce. The people who fought against Robert were Edward I of England, Edward II of England, and the Earl of Gloucester. The English fought against Robert the Bruce because they wanted Scotland to be under their rule. However, Robert the Bruce intensely opposed English rule in Scotland, so they fiercely fought the Scottish independence wars.
I read this book multiple times because of my love of Scotland. In fact, we purchased this book at a charity shop in Scotland. I learned that it was extremely hard to fight for Scottish independence. I like the book since Robert the Bruce is my personal hero for his efforts to secure a free Scotland. Even though he faced many struggles, he was consistently resolute, which modeled perseverance in what you believe. It also reminded me of the large castles with battlements and tall defensive walls which we were blessed to visit. Finally, the fierce battles show the sacrifice and cost of freedom. Whenever I think about Scotland’s history, I think of the English being driven out of Scotland, the battle of Bannockburn, and the difficulty to become king. I would recommend this book to others because I believe they would like the history in the book. Robert, King of Scots, bravely fought for Scottish freedom, and because of this, The Story of Robert Bruce is my favorite book.
LEVEL B WINNERDouble Blessing
By Katie Enoch, Age 13
Dirty feet. Ripped clothes. Sickness. Hunger. These are all examples that can stir someone to feel compassion, and these are all things I see right outside the gate of my home. I am a missionary kid, and I live in Kijabe, Kenya, just an hour away from the largest slum in Africa. In the local hospital, patients are kept in public wards with about twelve in each room. Staying is expensive, and if patients can’t pay their fees, they aren’t allowed to leave and their debt increases. Kids with clothes torn and shoes so worn out they are barely wearable are seen running around the streets, playing with empty soda bottles and trash that is discarded on the sides of the road. When I witness these things, it drives my thoughts to the simple question, What can I do about it? To me, showing compassion is being able to recognize that person’s pain. And to, whether you know the individual or not, love that person and do something, anything, to maybe make that person smile and help them feel uplifted. Some ways I show compassion to the people in my community are to practice acts of kindness, to ask them how they are doing and listen to what they have to share, and to be encouraging in the minor things. You never know when something as simple as opening a door with a smile for a stranger could impact someone.
The first and most obvious way to show compassion and love for someone is to practice acts of kindness. Sometimes we will visit the local hospital in the children’s ward, pray for the patients and their parents, and then give them a hard candy. We travel from room to room and visit each bed in each room and pray for whatever might be wrong with the patient. Then, after we pray, we give them a card with a verse on it and a candy to whomever we prayed for. After we have prayed for all the sick kids, we pray for the staff and give cards and candies to them also. That might not seem like very much, but that might be the only visitor these kids get the entire time they’re away from home and even something as minute as a candy and a friendly smile can cheer them up.
Another way I show compassion is to ask how others are doing and listen to their responses. When I greet someone, I not only ask how they personally are doing, but also how their family is doing. Then, the next time I see that person, I can follow up with questions regarding the events they told me the last time I visited them. This may seem like a miniscule way to be loving to another, but the minor things really let them know you care. If you follow up on what you had already been told about a certain occurrence, it shows that you were listening to the conversation. This also demonstrates that you were not just pretending to pay attention and that you cared enough to come back and ask if there had been any developments or resolutions. Another thing I do in a conversation with someone is to ask questions and not interrupt. When you ask questions, it communicates that you’re not only listening but that you’re also involved in what the person has to tell you. It’s important not to interrupt because it’s rude and communicates to the individual that you don’t really care what they are in the middle of sharing, but you just want to get in what you want to say right at that moment. When you listen, you show people that you care about them and you want to know what they have to share. Being attentive is just as important and loving to people as acts of kindness, only in a different way.
Another way to be compassionate towards others is to make an effort to be encouraging in the minor things in life. If you see someone sitting alone, away from the group, all you need to do to be loving is to walk over and sit by that person; you don’t even have to say anything, just sit. Then they know that at least someone notices them and cares enough to disengage with the more popular group and come to keep them company. Sharing a smile, opening a door, or giving a simple greeting are all things that can show people you care.
In my opinion, to show compassion to others is to recognize the pain of another and to do anything in your power to uplift that person. Performing acts of kindness, asking people how they’re getting along and listening to what they have to share, and being loving and intentional in the minor things are all ways I show compassion in my community. In the end, it’s important to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around you and that you aren’t the only one with struggles. If you can help others with theirs, yours seem to diminish. Then showing compassion becomes a double blessing.
LEVEL C WINNERKindness Equals Courage
By Seraphina West, Age 18
Compassion. It’s a word we throw around a lot, but there are few of us who actually put it into practice on a daily basis. We go through life as though we’re scared to show others our soft side, afraid of looking ridiculous. In consequence, so many opportunities to show compassion to others—close friends to complete strangers—pass us by. Showing compassion is not only kindness, but courage. It is not only great acts that will be remembered, but small acts that will be forgotten. It is not only compassion, but a calling.
Compassion is courage. To reach out to someone—someone you barely know or someone you’ve known your whole life—when they’re really hurting, to share their pain with them, is to be vulnerable. It’s scary. Perhaps this is why so many of us would prefer to be compassionate in less personal ways: donating money to charity, texting friends who are going through a hard time rather than calling or talking in person, using “Band-Aid phrases” like “I’m sorry about what happened” and “I really hope it’ll work out,” because we’re uncomfortable. I’ve definitely been there. Sometimes, it seems like being compassionate takes more courage than I can possibly muster. Compassion takes guts. It takes a willingness to open your heart, to show yourself, to sacrifice personal pleasures to benefit another. It’s hard. Maybe that is why it’s so wonderful.
Compassion is not just for the impressive things, but the simple ones as well. I could donate all of my money and worldly possessions to charity, and that would be compassion. But no one needs to become a possessionless hermit to show compassion. Showing compassion can be as simple as helping out a single mom with her groceries, helping someone change a tire, or taking the time to write a poem for your grandmother. This is another beauty about showing compassion—how simple it is. To stand in someone else’s shoes, to see their struggle and act on love—is this not something we all would want someone else to do for us? It takes nothing but courage to reach out and make a difference—even in the smallest ways. Simple acts of kindness we do today could have lasting repercussions for tomorrow.
Compassion is not just about being a good person. It’s about love. It’s about sharing the love inside me with a barren, hurting world. As a Christian, I feel that compassion is not just something “nice people” do—it’s also a calling. It’s a calling to give, and give generously, to reflect the love that Jesus showed to me, to reach out to a world crying out for hope. It means so much to me to be able to give back, in part, the love that I have received.
Compassion is not only something to strive for—it is integral to us as human beings. Compassion takes courage. It takes a commitment to love in large things and in small. It takes an outpouring of the spirit: receivers of love becoming givers of love. We must take a chance, do things, small and large, in love. We must have the courage to have compassion.