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Posted by Philip on 19 November 2012, 1:27 pm in , , ,

Remembering Shaun McKinney: a legacy of a kinder world.

I cannot exactly remember when I first met Shaun, but I distinctly remember noticing his warm, soft soul. As I began to get to know this shy young man, what impressed me was his deep, compassionate nature and a smile that was a magnet to all who encountered him.

Over the years the number of people whose lives were touched by Shaun would reach hundreds. He became an alumni of the first Be. Leadership programme in 2011,  a member of the Board of Rainbow Youth and a participant of Diversityworks Trust's Unique Business self-employment programme in 2012. Shaun was also a member of Diversityworks' Peer Support Network and made this digital story with us, celebrating his trip to Sydney on the AirNZ Pink Flight to attend Sydney’s Mardi Gras Parade.

Shaun, it often seemed, was everywhere!

Shaun began Unique Business in May 2012, wanting to run a business digitising photos, as he put it, "to bring old memories into the digital age". Throughout the course of the year, however, Shaun changed his focus to explore a deeper passion: compassion. He wanted to find ways to apply compassion in management, particularly integrating his previous year's learning about leadership. Shaun wanted to inspire people to rethink compassion, remove its commonly held association with pity, and consider how "smart compassion" could alleviate suffering and create new solutions to old problems.

Most of all, Shaun wanted to leave a legacy of a kinder world.

As I reflect on Shaun's own compassion, embued by his deep humility and overwhelming kindness, I see that he has, in fact, left the foundations of that legacy. Already I have begun to talk to colleagues and friends about how we might be able to make sure we can build on those foundations. If you have ideas or wish to contribute or be involved in some way, please contact me.

When people move on from the physical world so young — Shaun was only 26 — I am reminded of the paradox of humankind. It is easy to forget how precious and uncertain life is on the planet we know as our world, and I am more aware of things left unsaid, undone and uninitiated. Yet I am at the same time comforted by the knowledge that this is only one realm and that, when we move on from it, we are instantly unencumbered by our illusion that anything does not exist.

Shaun's mum wrote on his Facebook page, among dozens of tributes to him within hours of his passing: "My wonderful son gave up his struggle with life and will no longer struggle anymore." This was a struggle that Shaun endured with such dignity and grace, that one might suspect that Shaun understood that the struggle was only one side of the coin of life, and chose to express other, more important things.

Like compassion, kindness and the gift of a smile.

To everyone who knew Shaun — family, whanau, friends, colleagues — we can only grieve, remember and celebrate the privilege of knowing such a fine young man. And I hope, in whatever way it manifests, we can continue his legacy, his wish that this world would be kinder, through the simple act of remembering that we are all silently struggling in our own way.

For that, I believe, is true compassion.

We love you Shaun.