Scott Geller coined the term “actively caring” in 1990 when working with a team of safety leaders at Exxon Chemical in Baytown, Texas. Theirvision was to cultivate a brother’s/sister’s keepers culture. Everyone would look out for each other’s safety. People would routinely go above and beyond the call of duty for the benefit of the health, safety, and/or welfare of others.
Fast forward 23 years. Scott and his team of students at the Center for Applied Behavior Systems (CABS) at Virginia Techare preparing to publish the second edition of a book on what is now known as the Actively Caring for People (AC4P) Movement. The book covers the evidence-based principles behind actively caring. Scott is a scholar, and this is not any kind of self-help book.
Its contents cover the psychology of actively caring, the courage it takes for all of us to actively care for each other, for our environment, for our communities, for our society’s ills, and it includes personal stories of applications in the workplace (often for safety’s sake), in schools (often to counter bullying), in communities (in response to crimes and natural disasters), and within families (in response to addictions and conflicts, among other things).
Scott and his team indeed have a movement growing. Their website, www.ac4p.org, has posts from around the world, from all walks of life, describing often intimate and moving stories of caring and compassion. Some of the “acts” are spontaneous and brief; others are longer narratives. A professor at Kansas University describes using Scott’s first edition in an introductory behavioral psychology class.
“After three semesters of the AC4P assignment, we have personally distributed approximately 500 wristbands to the KU undergraduate body. Seeing our students beam when approaching us after class to share their own AC4P stories is one of the most fulfilling experiences we’ve encountered in our teaching,” he writes.
The actively caring wristbands are given to strangers, intimates, anyone who is observed in what I’d call a random act of kindness – except it is not always random. The students at KU, Scott’s students at Virginia Tech, have been schooled in a kind of “situational awareness of compassion.” They observe others actively caring and show their appreciation by handing them a wristband, and they have the courage and confidence to perform acts of caring themselves. The wristbands are given with the suggestion to “pass it forward” to someone else observed actively caring.
It’s easy to see this “process” adopted in workplace safety programs to help build a culture of values that goes back to what Scott and the safety team at Exxon Chemical were cultivating more than two decades ago. Anyone with the conscience and compassion to be a safety and health professional should visit www.ac4p.org and learn more about what it’s all about. I lost my father at a young age and benefited greatly from the people who actively cared about me. That’s why I’m writing this blog.