Guided By Kindness
For more than a year, we have been guided by Dr. Bonnie Henry’s words “be kind, be calm, be safe.” In her recent book with the same title, Henry said she chose these words very deliberately, beginning with kindness as a way for us to first remember to look out for others in the midst of this pandemic.
“When people are afraid,” she explained in her most reassuring tone, “when they’re anxious, they don’t know what to do with these emotions. So sometimes they lash out at others who they perceive as different, and they blame these other people. But the best thing to do is the opposite of that. Especially now. What we can do is try not to judge each other. We all need to be kind.” (from Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe by Dr. Bonnie Henry and Lynn Henry, pg 188.)
Kindness is also a word that was recently used to describe Communitas Supportive Care Society as it serves people living with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges, and acquired brain injury. Before the pandemic, as well as throughout it, kindness guided the way that staff engage with each other and especially with the people they serve.
It is this word that also guided the executive team of Communitas as they thought about how the organization might move into a new season as the province was taking its next steps to reopening.
Karyn Santiago, chief executive officer of Communitas, put pen to paper and crafted a first draft of the Communitas Kindness Charter. It emerged fairly organically as she thought about Dr. Henry’s encouragement and the affirming words of our recent peer reviewers.
Looking ahead, the executive team, understood that policy, guidelines and revised safety plans would be needed; however, they also recognized that those documents, in and of themselves, would not ensure the continuing supportive, people-centred culture that drives Communitas. That is where ‘kindness’ came in.
Angelika Dawson, communications manager for Communitas, recently read Dr. Bonnie Henry and Lynn Henry’s book. As a writer, she appreciates the care with which Dr. Henry considered her words. She also found that the Kindness Charter spoke directly to her, saying that judging others was one of the things with which she struggled most throughout the pandemic.
Being reminded to give grace, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to respond kindly, is just such a great reminder to me.– Angelika Dawson, communications manager
Elizabeth Bellefontaine agrees. She receives support through Communitas’ Community Living Program (CLP.) She is grateful for the many ways that she has experienced kindness in the past year and a half.
“I believe being kind to each other is important and goes a long way,” she says.
Sheral Jones manages the Brain Injury Drop-In in Abbotsford and is also a Life Skills Counsellor with CLP. Elizabeth is one of the people she supports. She thinks the Kindness Charter is a great way to encourage us to continue with the efforts that have gotten us through the pandemic thus far.
“We need to remember that we have all had different experiences during this pandemic, so let’s all proceed with loving hearts and continue to have compassion and patience and with one another,” she says.
The Kindness Charter asks people to commit to an intentional practice of kindness. It states: Organizational polices and guidelines only go so far in helping each one of us to navigate the next steps of this journey; kindness, however, will take us all the way home.
Karyn couldn’t agree more. “We are committed to working in a spirit of gentleness in all that we do. Kindness is an extension of that commitment to one another and the people we serve.”