Volunteer Spirit: Jackson dedicates volunteer service to food, faith

From left, Leslie Saunders, president of the Interfaith Council, and council members Charles Pearl and Jim Jackson pose for a picture during the Thanksgiving Day Walk of Awareness Nov. 22. (Photo submitted)

Jim Jackson sees “compassion” as a verb rather than a noun — something to be practiced, not just talked about.

“When my life here is over,” said Jackson, 72, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who had compassion for his fellow man. I’m far from where I want to be to express that.”

Retired since 2003, Jackson worked as a teacher, school superintendent and in the state Department of Education. He now spends his days living the two passions he sees as basic needs: food and faith.

Recognizing that people can’t function near their potential if they don’t have nourishment, Jackson is one of the 60 or so volunteers who operate the Franklin County Emergency Food Pantry.  In the past, he’s been president of the board and currently coordinates all volunteer activities.

“I work with a wonderful group of people, most of whom are retired but are willing to give of their time and resources,” Jackson said. “They are great examples of compassion.”

There’s the food. Here’s the faith: Jackson is deeply involved with the Frankfort Interfaith Council, composed of representatives from six faith groups — Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Judaism, Hindu and Islam. The council meets the third Tuesday of each month, and its website is frankfortinterfaithcouncil.org.

Jackson is a member of First United Methodist Church, where he is active in a Sunday school class formerly taught by the late John Paul Broderson, who died unexpectedly earlier in the fall.

“John Paul modeled compassion,” Jackson said, fighting back tears. “And I think all who knew him would agree.”

Guided by compassion

Guided by the Interfaith Council’s “Charter for Compassion,” Jackson hopes the spirit of the document will help bring all people, groups and organizations in Frankfort together under the umbrella of compassion. With permission already granted by Frankfort Mayor Bill May and County Judge-Executive Huston Wells, the charter will be read to the city commission on Feb. 11 and fiscal court on Feb. 20.

“It’s not about just adopting it, which I hope our elected officials will do,” he said. “It’s about seeking compassion in Frankfort and how we can be more compassionate to all people.”

The opening sentence of the charter states, “The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religions, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”

For Christians, Jackson cites the example set by Jesus Christ.

“He showed us how to understand, feel and care,” Jackson said.

All other faiths and traditions have a person — or persons — like Jesus.

The council, like its members, honors the faiths of fellow members, and the first point in the guidelines is that no member of the council is to “promote/push his/her faith on to other members of the council.”

It’s in inclusiveness that compassion leaps from being a noun reflecting something that’s been done to a verb that connotes action. He quotes Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of compassion as “the deep feelings of sharing the suffering of another in the inclination to give aid or support, or to show mercy.”

Jackson and his wife of 48 years, Pam, have three grown children and seven grandchildren. He said they have found Frankfort to be a caring, giving place, and, like all volunteers, Jackson says he gets far more from volunteer service than he receives.

He sees spreading that good, warm inner feeling as important.

“Compassion is not inherited,” he said. “It must be taught, learned and mentored within a community.”

He wants to be a part of that teaching.

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