Tragedies like the earthquake in Nepal cause us to engage in soul-searching about life and how we are living, as well as call us to respond with compassion to the intense suffering that we witness. For those of us seeking ways to help, it can be difficult to know how to respond. Research by the CompassionLab shows that leaders and influential people who put their humanity on display are powerful catalysts for healing. In the midst of unspeakably challenging circumstances, where it seems that world has been turned upside down, leaders can create a context for meaning, opening up an environment in which people can express how they feel, make some sense of the pain, and seek and provide comfort with others who are also suffering. In the face of terrible tragedies like the one unfolding in Nepal, leaders are also crucial in creating a context for action. By acting themselves, and by inviting and encouraging those who witness suffering to find ways to reach out and alleviate suffering, leaders who model compassionate behavior make it easier for others who might be wrestling with questions about what is right or appropriate to do.

If you are a leader in your organization, club, school, student group, community organization, religious community, or workplace, we invite you to take this opportunity to integrate compassion into your leadership in a very real way. Create a context for meaning by opening up dialogue about this disaster, how it provokes vulnerability for all of us, and how it makes you feel as a fellow human being. Create a context for action by inviting people to assist in relief efforts, share resources to learn more, and collectively gather money or supplies or good wishes. By leading in a time of trauma, you will pave the way for small and large acts of compassion, both now and in the future.

How You Can Help

To read more about how leaders create contexts of meaning and action, you can read Leading in Times of Trauma by the CompassionLab.

To find a variety of charities and relief organizations where you can help, visit lists via KQED News, TIME Magazine, and Lion’s Roar.