Compassion in the Year of the Sheep

Kathy KrugerChina, love27 Comments

I don’t know whether compassion will be a hallmark of the new Chinese Year of the Sheep (or Goat/Ram). I sincerely hope so.

I do know that our Chinese-born adopted daughter, born in the last Year of the Sheep (2003) is not much of a flock follower (other than in fashion). I know that she can ram home her point and she can certainly get as mad (as in angry) as a goat and act as stubborn as an Ox (just like her little brother, the Ox, also adopted from China).

Compassion is something I’m trying to teach them both. It’s right alongside empathy, of course, and is up there with confidence and resilience in my book. Confidence and resilience are great, as long as you can show yourself, and others, compassion and kindness – starting with empathy.

Compassion is the focus for a global link-up of voices speaking gently – #1000speak. A chorus of soft song. A harmony.


As the new Chinese Year (also known as Lunar new year) arrives I ponder whether compassion will be up there alongside the annual wishes for happiness and prosperity.

year-of-the-sheep 1_edited-2

The focus tends to be on luck, wealth and longevity for celebrations that extend from New Year for the fifteen days of the Spring Festival. Everyone wants to ring in New Year luck with feasting (yum), and ward off bad spirits with firecrackers. No mention of compassion for when things don’t work out.

Unfortunately being born in the Year of the Sheep/Goat is not considered lucky – Chinese myth suggests that 9 out of 10 people born in this year don’t find happiness in their lives and couples supposedly even avoid having children in Sheep years (although statistics don’t bear this out).

Our daughter was born in the Year of the Sheep and wound up an orphan, who we, so very fortunately, were able to adopt. I would never presume she is lucky, but I certainly feel that way, even more now that we have adopted our son also. What are the crazy circumstances that brought us together but yin and yang – bad luck, good luck, good luck, bad luck. The strange, sad, yet sublime, circle of life.

Sheep are supposed to be followers, and in a society that seems to want to value leaders we don’t show enough compassion to poor, sensitive Sheep. They are creative, but can be shy. We need to cut them some slack, give them their time to shine. Our sheep/goat girl is cautious, yet self-assured, soft yet strident. Sometimes I can’t quite work out who she is, let alone who she is going to be. She’s only 11.5 years old. She has plenty of time to work it out. I have as much time as needed to wait, with compassion.

I hope she will be compassionate.

Our little (or not so much anymore) sheep girl is such a beautiful dancer. She’s all grace and serenity – soft, smooth and subtle – a natural talent that all I can do is nurture. While she knows she’s good, others have commented on her modesty as much as her ability. I’m proud of how she dances, and beyond proud of her humility, her grace, her sense of compassion in not wanting to make another feel lesser in order to feel good herself.

She yells at her brother, at me, even at her father (who spoils her rotten). She yells because I shout and because I don’t show enough compassion. She throws hate around and it hits me fair between the eyes. Yet she loves, shows kindness and knows what it is to be compassionate, even though it is not always easy to be so.

Our little boy, now five, is a naturally kind heart – a sweet, if stubborn, Ox. He will be easier to mold with love and compassion– not by subduing, but by teaching. He is quick to learn. I suspect he will be a leader and hope he will be a leader of humanity.

I hope he will be compassionate.

Can we teach compassion or do we just have to feel it? Can we ever force it? I doubt it, even though I sometimes use harsh words to try to ‘guilt’ a kind response – surprising how I can’t see the hypocrisy in that!

I think compassion can only ever be shown, in our actions large and small.

It is not enough to feel for someone – we must speak kind words, really listen, make caring gestures and do things for people with love and non-judgement. And we must speak kindly to ourselves, listen intently to our inner voice, cut ourselves some slack, honour our talents and successes and accept our failings and mistakes.

Let’s hope this New Chinese Year of the Sheep echoes with a chorus of compassion around the world. And if your year hasn’t started as well as you hoped, just make a new start with compassion.

Gung Hei Fat Choy! (I’m linking up here for #1000speak and as usual with the lovely Grace for FYBF). Oh and joining in on the Weekend Rewind with Sonia, Bron, Kelly and Sonia.

Namaste sign off_edited-1

Kathy X

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27 Comments on “Compassion in the Year of the Sheep”

  1. Jen @ Driftwood Gardens

    I love all the superstition and tradition surrounding Chinese New Year. First of all, I believe it takes a very special person to adopt a child – one who has a big, loving heart. I am fairly certain that you are the type of mother who will weave lessons about compassion into holiday traditions and every day life. Thank you for sharing your lovely words.

    1. Kathy Kruger

      Thanks for your lovely comment and for visiting Jen. I feel special to have the gift of our children and I hope my heart is big enough to love them as they deserve to be loved. I am committed to teaching our kids that being compassionate is more important than being ‘successful’ or rich, or famous – that it is pretty much what life is all about. Of course saying it is easier than showing it!

  2. middleagedmama1

    I seem to remember I was born in the year of the goat – and my star sign is also the goat (Capricorn). Not sure what that says about me – that I’m stubborn, can climb mountains with ease and will eat any rubbish??!

  3. Kate (@onesmalllife)

    Hello from a fellow Ox! I couldn’t agree more – you cannot teach compassion, except by example. Compassionate parents will raise compassionate children. But as parents how compassionate can we be to our children unless we can first be compassionate to ourselves. Lovely post. I look forward to reading more from you now that I have found your blog. x

  4. Min (@riteofthemiddle)

    Such a beautifully reflective post Kathy. I think that as parents we can awaken our kids to compassion by leading by example but other than that – I think it is human instinct to feel it – some more than others! 🙂

  5. Vidya Sury

    What a beautiful post, Kathy! Much of what children learn is from the environment in which they grow, what they see and hear.

    I am inspired to read more about Chinese years. I was born in the Year of the Rabbit. 😀 Happy New Year to you and your lovely family!

  6. Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life

    I completely agree that compassion is something we do/show and not just how we feel. I love that you have adopted two lovely children and are teaching them compassion. Also, how great is this 1000speak party? The world needs some positivity!

  7. Trish MLDB

    WE have an adopted son (now 21) you write so beautifully about your cherished cherubs. I too this New year is full of compassion.

  8. Vaayadi Pennu ;)

    I think the very fact that you have adopted her, starts to rupture the superstitions around ill luck and born in the year of the sheep. She is lucky to have a family to spoils her rotten.. 🙂 well she learns from the environment and sure she will.. good luck there .. for an year full of compassion..

  9. Deborah

    I often joke about the extent to which I’m self-absorbed but definitely believe I’ve been instilled with compassion. An important characteristic and one which is often not appreciated as much as it should be!

  10. Erika @ Ever-changing Life of a Mum

    Beautiful post. Hmmm I don’t know if you can teach compassion, but I’m a big believer in treating others in the same way as you wish to be treated, so if children can see compassion in action from their parents then hopefully this will be passed on to them.
    I’m going to be having another little girl this year, so she will also be born into the Year of the Sheep. I also have a Rooster, who is very much a deep thinker but also very enthusiastic, and an Ox, who is quite strong willed yet takes her time in making decisions. Now I’m interested in checking on their compatibility 🙂

    1. Kathy Kruger

      It is interesting the Chinese horoscope approach. I do think some of us are born with more natural compassion but I also believe like you that we nurture that natural compassion in our kids by leading by example.

  11. Tarana Khan

    Great point about how it’s not really possible to ‘teach’ compassion unless you really incorporate it in your lives and follow it as a daily mantra.

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