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The 2022 GOK USA was the best one ever!

The Narrative Initiative LLC sponsors The Gathering of Kindness USA each year and has a mission to make the experience of healthcare feel better for those who choose to work in healthcare AND those who need to receive care.

"You guys are on to something big!"

Sheryl R, participant GOK USA 2022

The 3rd Annual Gathering of Kindness USA was absolutely amazing! Truly the best conversation we've had to date on the topic of Kindness and Healthcare. GOK USA was held at the Hoffman House on the campus of Muhlenburg College in Allentown, PA, on April 8, 2022. GOK USA has a mission to bring together community members and healthcare professionals to have a conversation about the challenges to kindness in the experience of healthcare.

The Gathering of Kindness USA was opened by Dr. Lorraine Dickey, the Founder and CEO of The Narrative Initiative (TNI), and Vivian Canci-Foulke, the Executive Director of TNI. Dr. Dickey provided a framework with which to examine kindness throughout the day: Kindness 1.0 -- Remember to Ask and Kindness 2.0 -- Kindness by Omission. And an option for texting kindness by omission was demonstrated and tried out by everyone!

Our morning speakers representing the community were Nancy Werteen & Kim Howie of the The Wisdom Coalition who presented their perspectives on being kind to ourselves --self-compassion and the joy that can bring benefits such as increased happiness, better relationships, improved physical health, and increased resilience to life events. Remember to treat yourself as a "dear friend." Kindness to others begins with kindness to ourselves.

Our morning speaker from healthcare was Terry Burger, MSN, who worked the night before the event and was returning to work the night of GOK USA again -- a reflection of the challenges nurses face these days. Though she leads Infection Control and Prevention at Lehigh Valley Health Network she described finding increased satisfaction and joy in recently returning to the floor to care for patients. "I can give a back rub. Who doesn't need a back rub on the floor?" Her perspective on the challenges of being in a nurse for over 40 years and the pressures she has faced in her personal life were those many of us could relate to. Her lesson for us, "Don't wait until you are falling apart to learn to take care of yourself," is good medicine for us all.

We were delighted to have the play "Hear Me" return for an encore performance. Originally written and produced by Alan Hopgood & Dr. Catherine Crock from The HUSH Foundation in Melbourne, Australia, this healthcare play highlights the different perspectives of a serious medical error. It opens the door to a discussion on what kindness, and a lack of kindness, looks like from the patient, family, and healthcare professional's point of view. The play made its US debut in 2019 at our 2nd Annual GOK USA. Once again it was performed expertly by actors associated with The Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble. Many thanks to Thomas Byrn, Renee Fawess, Amy Renee Byrne, Violet Race, and the amazing Andrew Hubatsek!

A narrative session use the Write-Read-Reflect narrative exchange method developed by The Narrative Initiative rounded out the morning. Everyone had a chance to write and share stories from our own perspectives on why it can be challenging to be kind and the joys of kindness. And everyone was introduced to the concept of listening for qualitative language to reflect back to the author as a way of demonstrating respect, developing trust, and getting to the heart of the story quickly.

After a break for lunch and a stroll around the lovely grounds of the Hoffman House with all the blooming trees, Dr. Dickey expanded the framework to include why it's hard to be an agent of kindness (Kindness 3.0). Then we heard from our afternoon community speaker Dr. Mohamed Latib who is the Founder and CEO of CX University & PX Academy. Mohamed spoke with humanity and authenticity from his experience growing up in South Africa, his experience with apartheid, and the kindness of a few key people at critical points in his life that changed him forever. "Kindness leaves an indelible mark on your soul." Immersive experiences can change us for the kinder.

Our afternoon speaker from healthcare was Dr. Jennifer Stephens, Chief Medical Officer of Quality and Patient Safety at Lehigh Valley Health Network. She spoke poignantly about how a critical life event uncovered a serious unconscious bias that colored her view of her profession and personal life. Jen spoke with courage and authenticity encouraging us all to be open to challenging biases that we believe serve us and make us feel safe when in fact they might not be serving us well at all.

Our second media presentation was the short movie "WatchTower" written and directed by Alexander Vlahos of CowHouse Films. This film explores the inner conflict of isolating oneself and allowing the presence of a loved one to be a source of strength (or a lighthouse which is the American equivalent of the British watchtower.) Our biases about addiction and recovery can make it difficult to engage as an agent of kindness. Other qualitative words and topics such as "vaccination," "racism," and "healthcare" can incite polarizing feelings within us and may cause us to refrain from engaging as an agent of kindness.

We finished the day with a second Write-Read-Reflect narrative experience where we explored challenges to being an agent of kindness and work arounds that might be helpful. Great practical experience on finding and reflecting the qualitative language in another's story so everyone can leave and use these new listening skills on family, friends, and especially in their next healthcare experience!

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for our 4th Annual Gathering of Kindness USA November 2023! And follow us to see what kind of good trouble we are getting into!!

All photo courtesy of The Narrative Initiative and The Wisdom Coalition

April 2022

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