This is Geoffrey Sutherland. This is his WHY!

Creative Options Regina has over 220 employees, all with different stories. This blog series will highlight some of the amazing people that work at COR and what fuels their passion and purpose.

This is Geoffrey Sutherland. Geoffrey is a Youth Experience Advisor and joined COR in March of this year.

What brought you to COR?

I had been engaged in a leadership role in agency run foster care.  My team and I had the honour of ensuring the unification and ongoing support of families in the community. As an early childhood educator, Gentle Teaching is interwoven throughout my curriculum and approach.  This had provided me with the foundation in practice and the evidence I sought for a better way to serve. What had occurred to me was that it is senseless to give both value and safety to the individuals we serve, but less so to the community who support them. Highly motivated to be a different kind of leader, I had reached out to Michael Lavis for guidance.  He astonished me by generously offering his time and insight tirelessly encouraging me to build the structure needed for a culture of gentleness.  A culture that would, in time, extend affectionately to supports, clinical and educational professionals, and most rewardingly, the loving families of the children now flourishing in their rightful homes. Finally, fully committed to Gentle Teaching as a philosophy and worthy vessel of compassion, it had become abundantly clear that to deepen my practice, a new place to call home would be needed.  One with a different kind of leadership: clear, kind, intentional, and open hearted.

Why do you stay?

I serve for its own sake. I have in my past been called passionate and enthusiastic, but these purposes have their limitations. Passion is about feeling strongly. Strong feelings can get in the way of the work I do. It can make me forget to listen and be present with an open heart. Feeling strongly can urge me to forget about the feelings of others. If ever I find myself feeling unclear or hesitant, it becomes improbable for me to know my purpose and show the consistency of intentionality that is deserved by those I support.  Not only is passion fleeting, it can encourage me to think of myself or my own values first. Instead, I must meet the individuals I support where they are at placing them at the centre of their own lives.  That is what’s needed from me. Likewise, enthusiasm is a powerful and tempting reason why. I can fondly and clearly recall holding babies as they fall asleep in my arms, or one of a child’s many memorable, “first” moments that have filled me with pride and gratitude.  The individuals I serve though, like all humans, also face many difficult times. Because I sincerely love the good people I greet everyday, it pains me to watch them struggle, or suffer the despair of broken hearts. If I were only able to support when it feels good, I might not last long in my work. Everyone needs someone to show up tomorrow and the next day. To be present with the same desire and open heart as today and the day before.  To support through both the ups and the downs. So what sustains me? What is my reason why for rain or shine, good or bad, simple or challenging? For its own sake. I am compelled to serve others in need when I have the power to do so. It is a drive, a curiosity and fascination that leaves me unwilling to look away for fear of missing a thing. It is the drive that fills me with the desire to feed the hungry, console the broken hearted, and to be a companion to the lonely.  A feeling that if it needs to get done, I want to be the one to do it, to do it well and to offer my service freely without resentment or regret. Then COR is the place where I can fulfill this drive. It is a safe place I know I can go every morning to do the only thing I really want to do. Be there for others.

What is the best part about your job?

If “for its own sake” is the reason why then what is “it” and what is its sake? I have encountered many senses of the word, compassion.  Some say to care for oneself in the face of caring about others. Others use words like sensitive, justice, or even pity to describe it. So why do I feel compassion even when there is nothing I can do for another except be present? When it is not in my power to offer justice or fairness? Why do I crave the feeling of compassion even when it pains me to bear witness to the hurt of others? Why does compassion give meaning to all other endeavours in my life? In my experience, what I know to be true is that compassion is above all else, the immense gratitude and the joy I can only experience feeling connected to another human being. That for better or worse, I’m so thankful I am going through this life together with someone else. Even better, with so many others.

What’s been the most impactful or meaningful experience you’ve had?

Over the last decade and a half, I have had the time to reflect on why I do what I do, and what I get out of it.  What I have enjoyed about COR, is meeting others who know their “Why” too. To watch them flourish in a culture of gentleness that praises and encourages each of them as individuals connecting with their own precious and ever changing purpose.

What do you wish others knew about supporting at COR?

It takes an open heart to come to COR. It takes an open heart to stay at COR. If we can remember this one thing, everything else falls into place. What takes time to realize is that only an open heart can be full.