I’ve been thinking about leading with care a lot lately, especially when teaching, and more broadly. There is so much hurt and pain around us at the moment, while care won’t always solve larger issues, a moment of compassion can go a long way, and may help diffuse situations and prevent further hostility and out bursts of anger. Below is story of that reinforced the need to come from a place of compassion.

I was celebrating my mum’s birthday recently, and was reminded that our teachers are all around us. My mum is in a care home, she has ALS, which has robbed her of her ability to move and speak and has made her reliant on others for everything. Micro movements that we take for granted, such as minor adjustments to our sitting position, is something she needs assistance with. Because she can’t talk, she may spend hours waiting and hoping that someone notices her discomfort or responds to cries for help. Despite her physical impairments, cognitively, she is alert. I only get 1, 30 minute socially distanced visit a week with her. During this time, I make sure I connect with each of her siblings via video calls, as she otherwise has limited interactions with others. COVID has taken its toll on her, she’s isolated. Due to COVID visits are not as private as they could be and that’s okay, I’m grateful just to see her in person. My relationship with my mum is one of the longest and closest relationships in my life. As I was celebrating her birthday as best as I could, the person across from me was unhappy that I was “loud” and made their feelings clear in a passive aggressive manner. We’ve all reacted this way in response to annoyance. (As a side note, I am mindful of the volume on the speaker phone, and do explain my mum’s condition to others when needed.)

I forgot about the person’s comment until I left and walked by them. As I reflected on this incident, it reminded me of two points, that a moment of compassion goes a long way and it’s important to be clear in our interactions. I’ll focus on the former in this post. There’s always a moment before we make a judgement that we could take a different direction. This event helped to remind me of that, and to check myself and my actions. It’s easy to respond similarly when we feel tired, are stressed, or have had a difficult day. It’s easy to judge those we fail to understand. Ironically, or maybe as a part of my learning that day, my son was acting out. My spouse talked with him earlier, and I admired his patience, how he connected with him, and was able to create space for our son to open up. Later, I was tired and wanted to react when again he started to act out again. I really believe that people, children and adults, don’t mean to act out and there is a reason for the underlying behaviour. It took time, and patience on my end, and he opened up about his hurt again, and talked about his feelings a bit more. I’m grateful for my earlier lesson today, otherwise I could have responded in a way that closed the conversation (either through my tone or body language) and then I would taught someone I love dearly, that it’s better to hide our emotions than talk through them. Don’t get me wrong, this is not easy, it takes time, patience and self-regulation, but my day was a reminder of the choices I can make.

As I reflect on that day, the lesson to be compassionate and lead with care is coming through strongly, and has since changed how I interact with others. It’s easy to respond with criticism and judgement, we’ve all done this, myself included. I never expected this passing comment, she’s so loud, during my visit with my mum to hold so much space for my own learning and personal growth. You never know what gifts the day will bring you. If we’re open, our teachers are all around us. What triggers us, teaches us.

I’m sharing this in case it resonates or helps others in some way.

Thank you to my teacher that day.