Mentoring a Spirit of Gentleness

“Mentoring is a way to help teach others about gentle care giving, to enter into terrifying spaces and teach others to feel safe and loved.” Mentoring is an approach to do this. It is a way to share with others a spirit of gentleness and justice.

A mentors role is to define the empty and sometimes violent spaces that exist between caregivers and marginalized individuals in institutions, shelters, homes, prisons, nursing homes, schools and wherever we happen to serve. These places have to be filled up with the caregivers’ laces of affection–their loving touch, warm words, and kind gazes. Caregivers need to stop and reflect on the formation of companionship and community and the role of helping individuals feel safe, engaged, loved and loving. From this foundation, caregivers can then create communities of caring. Mentoring is a process for teaching caregivers to establish companionship and community.

Mentoring is a way to teach others

Mentoring is an ever-deepening task that calls for the development of trust among caregivers and the formation of a sense of companionship and community. This trust starts by the Mentor entering into the caregivers’ space with a deep sense of humility and justice and helping each caregiver feel safe and respected. It is the informal coming together of the Mentor and caregiver around the kitchen table and the sharing of the meaning of companionship and community. It is working together and finding ways to teach marginalized people these feelings.”

-John McGee

Authenticating Life

Perhaps you are like me and occasionally enjoy looking at at a piece of art. Whether it is the color, systematic brush strokes and blending or perhaps it is the stylistic nature of the painting. To me art speaks volumes. I love admiring, analyzing and relishing in the beauty of the canvas–for some, admiration isn’t enough.

In 1996, Britain “Ripper” (not Jack the Ripper) emerged from the smoke as the world’s greatest art thief. It was soon found out that the ‘Ripper’ had been a local gardener and golf course keeper whose name was Mr. Bellwood. The first time this man was arrested, the police officers stormed his house to find a typical British dwelling; His wife Susan and their daughter were sitting in their living room having a cup of tea. At first the police feared they had the wrong man as Bellwood’s house had the appearance of being a middle-class home; it wasn’t until they began tearing down Mr. Bellwood’s walls that they found hidden away a gallery consisting of nearly 1,000 pieces of world history and art dating back to the 15th and 16th century. For obvious reasons he was arrested; but was released a mere two and a half years later on having good behavior. Since his release Bellwood has continued his thievery, taking into his possession over one-hundred-million pounds worth of history artifacts and art. It is now suggested that Mr. Bellwood has fled from England and is living overseas and working in the art world.

As soon art began to go missing, duplicates began to appear–however they were falsified documents and had to be authenticated. I don’t know about you, but authenticating something doesn’t sound like and easy job: it takes time, meticulous effort and observation.

When something is authenticated it is deemed, true, genuine, and ‘original to design and purpose’. While some people may heartily disagree with me, I suggest that authenticity in our world is an uncommon trait. Just like Mr. Bellwood, we as people so often portray ourselves as something that we are not or because of our historical pasts, feel unable to live authentically; but this is what our world needs! When you wake up in the morning, and leave your house people should be able to look at your life and be astonished by the courage and boldness that you have to live as you are. This doesn’t mean that we don’t learn from each other: in fact I am convinced that a life that stops learning is a life that stops living — similarly if we can’t live authentically before those who encompass our daily lives, I would ask if we are then truly living.

Authenticity flows beyond ourselves and into our family lives, our relationships and into our places of work. For those who choose to strive to live authentically it fosters a community that births life: a safe place where people are challenged, supported and offered an invitation into true relationship. This needs to become our new status quo. As I sign-off for now I leave you with a snippet from John McGee, who encourages us to live authentically before the people we serve: allowing our own story and personality to penetrate our own hearts and the hearts of those we serve.

“Unconditional love has to be expressed in our very being. Our presence has to evoke a peace like a single glimpse of the sun does in the midst of a storm. Our touch, words, and eyes have to be like a gentle breeze that calms the storm of fear and meaninglessness that is always lingering on the horizon. We must be authentic. How we use these has to reflect our own life-story and personality.” – John McGee

Ben Raine,

Director of Culture and Mentorship

Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community

It’s Time To BULK-UP Your Shoulders

I am a firm believer that exercise is a necessary evil.

If I could get away with never working out I would be an incredibly happy man! However, there is something strange that began happening to me once I graduated high school; my ‘average size’ frame began morphing into something that resembled the shape of a Teletubby. What was described to me as the ‘freshmen fifteen’, in reality became the freshman thirty-five: I had lost control!

Instead of crossing my fingers and wishing for the weight to miraculously dissolve, I made the hard choice to eat better and begin working out. At first going to the gym was incredibly intimidating; but with every time I kept my commitment, it became easier and more comfortable. Once again I began noticing changes. I felt healthier, stronger and my shoulders became more defined.

Shoulder’s aren’t typically something that you wake up thinking about: unless you are an Olympic body-builder and yet my post today focuses our attention on this idea: Do not be dismayed, this is a challenge that runs significantly deeper than the physical. I believe that we as living and breathing people need to continually ask ourselves, ‘what am I able to bear and what is my breaking point?’ This question comes to mind after weeks and months of dwelling on the question “whose responsibility is it?” Particularly thinking about the disability sector and the desire on COR’s behalf to be leaders within our community by embracing Gentle Teaching—and challenging the status-quo.

Whose responsibility is it when the police are called to a house because of a yelling match between roommates? Whose responsibility is it when a customer in line at the grocery store glares cruelly at the person we support, and utters comments under their breath? Whose responsibility is it to put the house together after an escalation that resulted in property damage? I’ll stop here, but please don’t think that this is a compulsive list—No! It can entail anything and everything that falls within a grey area, including care for those that we support as well as those that we support with.


On going relationships should motivate us to dig into unconditional love and share the load of others burdens. Giving the emotional encouragement and mental strength, so that the love of friendship spurs on that individual to continue. We have often said that we desire to work in a community of like-minded people: in order to do this we need to learn to carry the burdens and stress of others. Assist where needed and when available in order to bulk up our shoulders.

From my meager perspective, the greatest way to do this is to question your intent in everything. Are you noticing the down-trodden parent, the intimidated support worker or the overwhelmed team leader? Or, are you so caught up in the happenings of your own life that others are hidden in the background: with a painted banner over their heads that convinces you they are “happy”, “fine” or “will pull through with time”. I am convinced that we need to learn to become more intentional, bend down to help the helpless and bulk up our shoulders to carry the burden of others.


Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship


A House Is Only a House Until a Family Makes It a Home

” I am an advocate of the common phrase, ‘mi casa es su casa’, which translates into ‘my house is your house.’ Though figuratively speaking, I feel that by taking the extra effort to make a house a safer place to live is possible. I believe a house is only a house until a family makes it a home. This, I find is a crucial part of my role as a support worker. I know that being dedicated and reliable with a healthy mix of willingness to learn, is vital to creating a fun, vibrant and effective family home. As it only takes one stone to create a ripple, just as personally I have been caught up in another upon me; I feel to carry this is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Such simple acts of caring for the next support person coming into the house helps usher in a stress-free environment (dishes, sweeping, bathroom etc.). It is often these little things that encapsulate the idea of Gentle Teaching and strives to create an environment of selflessness.”

Tony, COR Support

It Is Important To Listen

“For creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with the guys I support it is important to listen to what they have to say, help the guys to feel safe and loved; and to be engaged. The way I do this is that when they are talking I make sure I am looking at them and responding to them even if I already know or have heard what they are telling me. Also, when they are upset or angry, I attempt to give them their space until they are ready to talk about what was upsetting them. I never get mad or yell!

Some of the ways that I make the guys feel safe is by telling them that I am here for them and that I am not going to let anything happen to them. Some of the ways that I show the guys love is by taking them to a place they love or by watching a show or a movie over and over just because it makes them happy. Another way I show that they are important and loved is that even when I am not supporting I will still come to hangout, answer calls or texts and play games. The main way that I help the guys feel loved is by telling them that they are smart, good and that I love them: I will also give hugs freely.

The way I get the guys feeling engaged is by taking them to my house and meeting my family; by engaging them to help me personally, or with tasks that need to be done around their houses. In creating and maintaining a culture of gentleness with supports, I try to be as helpful as I can by being flexible with open support times. Also instead of getting upset or questioning an issue, I either ask questions or talk to someone, like my team leader.”

Jenna, COR Support

Connections Help Build Relationships

The relationships and communication I maintain with the individuals I support have helped me establish a gentle, secure and caring presence within the homes of these individuals. By taking the time to get to know these people, I have learned how some of life’s little problems can build into a bad day. By being consistent, enthusiastic and a positive support, I have been able to help small problems stay small!

Sometimes, a little space and time to think is all that is needed to bring someone back to their personal best. It could be a trigger that can be removed from the environment, or even small talk about the Roughriders or Regina Pats. Knowing each of the people I support has taught me to truly consider how the world is uniquely different from everyone’s perspective and just because a problem may not seem like a big deal from my view point, it may be a crucial crutch in these people’s world view.

When I enter the homes of the individuals I support, I bring a friendly and supportive person into their lives. I have a lot in common with each person I support; these connections have helped build our relationship. It has been a wonderful experience to learn from these people and it continues to provide me with the opportunity to help someone see that there are a lot of great things in life and hopefully I can help make it a good day!

Mickey, COR Support

History Changes Our Perspective

History. Everyone has one, yet most of the time they are hidden like little secrets that blow in the wind. When you meet a person it isn’t the first thing that typically comes to mind.

If I was to meet a stranger on the side of the road (because that’s my normal hangout spot 🙂 they would most likely notice that I am a pretty outgoing guy, I like to smile and find joy in the small things and hopefully notice that I am kind in spirit. At first glance you wouldn’t know that I’ve moved half a dozen times in my life, travelled as a musician for year or had an eating disorder in my teenage years. You wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not my parents were married or divorced and what my relationship with them is like. You wouldn’t be able to tell that art is soothing to my soul, or that my wife was the second woman I had ever dated and the only one to capture my attention and keep. You wouldn’t be able to tell that over the past three years mild health problems have led to intense bouts of anxiety. You wouldn’t be able to tell that I have been in six car accidents and have a perpetual fear of sitting in the passenger seat. And you wouldn’t be able to tell that one of those car accidents was because of a grasshopper that latched itself to my eye—this has caused a lasting fear of insects like grasshoppers and lady-bugs.

Contrary to popular belief my goal is not to expose my soul to the eyes and ears of our internet readers: rather to challenge our ideas of “history” and how it effects the way that we communicate and relate with each other. If a person knew that I had an eating disorder as a teenager, the likelihood of them teasing me about being overweight, fat or “chunky like a monkey” most likely wouldn’t happen. Why? Because when you know a person, your response changes. The person becomes less of a stranger; they have shared the intimacy of their life with you—they reach out with open hands asking you to be careful as they seek to trust you in relationship.

As we know, not everyone is willing to share freely about their life and its past events—this makes our job as a people difficult because regardless of who you are and where you came from, you have a history—stories upon stories that have come to shape your life, beliefs and character. Our job, though difficult, is exciting! Learning to approach people with unconditional love which knocks on the door of their lives asking to be part of their story, in true and honest relationship in a manner in which we are constantly learning about who they are as people, and not who they are on paper.

Ben, Director of Culture and Mentorship

Patience and Empathy have Great Value!

As a support person at COR, I have been privileged with the opportunity to support six incredible individuals so far. The way I try to create/maintain a culture of gentleness is by being patient, empathetic and having high energy. I’ve found that no matter how bad my day has been, any time I’m supporting I am much happier. Staying patient with the individuals I support has gone a long way for me in building trust and a relationship with them.

Because these individuals have been through so much in their lives, I try to empathize with them when they are having a rough day, rather than  look down on them. This method has helped me as a support, but also as a person outside of COR. I find being patient and empathetic to everyone has great value and has made me a better person, friend, teammate, support and leader. Being high energy is important because many of the people I’ve supported feed off of that energy and it makes them happy or wanting to do something with me because they know I will be engaged and putting my full energy into supporting them.

Caleb, COR Support

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in all relationships

Throughout my nearly three years as a Support Person with COR I have had the pleasure of supporting several individuals with varying interests, strengths, challenges, and needs.  The one thing that has always remained constant is that each and every person I have supported has needed to feel safe and loved unconditionally.  I am fortunate in that I have been able to support a few individuals for the entirety or better half of my employment at COR and have been able to build amazing relationships with them.

Every Support Person will have a different relationship with the same individual, and every Support Person will approach building that relationship in slightly different ways.  While at first I found it challenging to build relationships, by choosing to be myself and treat the individuals I support like my close friends and family members I found things flowed as naturally as any other relationship would and true friendships were born.  People can sense when you are not being genuine towards them and they will withdraw from you because they do not feel safe.  Just because somebody has an intellectual disability does not mean they deserve to be treated as less of a person or talked to differently than anybody else you interact with in your day.

Throughout my employment at COR I have considered the people I support to be real-life friends and I have really tried to show them that I value their friendship and truly believe we are all equals.  I know that a lot of the individuals COR supports still call their Supports their “Workers” because their entire lives they have known that most of the people in their lives are paid to be there.  While I am employed by COR I do my best to tell them through my words, actions, and body language that we are friends first and foremost and nothing they can do or say will make me not want to be their friend.  Friendships may have ups and downs, but unconditional love doesn’t falter.

I also truly believe that it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in all relationships.  Introducing the people I support as “my friend” instead of “the person I work with”.  Offering hugs and not shying away from them after a challenging day.  Actively listening to how they are telling me they feel in that moment instead of dismissing it.  Not altering my voice to sound like I’m talking to a small child.  These are all little things I make a conscious effort to do to help grow my relationships and over time I have seen the people I support reciprocate my offerings of friendship and love.

Allison, COR Support