Kindness matters

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 63, No. 9, November 2021, Page 363 President's Comment
Dr Matthew Chow
Dr Matthew Chow

There’s an important task I’ve been doing every day during this pandemic, one that is so important to me I will often stay up long after my family is asleep to make sure it’s done right. So what has been occupying so much of my time as president? I have been sharing my gratitude.

Most of the time I do this by writing an email, and sometimes, even in those late hours, I’m lucky enough to catch someone during a private online moment or “in person.” One time I used the “old-fashioned” way of mailing a short message on a sticky note and was pleasantly surprised when it reached its recipient. Speaking of recipients, you may be wondering whom I’m sharing my gratitude with. It is an eclectic bunch: colleagues on the front lines, people working in public health, politicians, government employees, health care researchers, and teachers … the list goes on.

But why am I doing this? The reasons are multiple. I see people doing good work and I want to encourage them to keep doing it. I see people making tough calls and I want to acknowledge their courage. I see people struggling and I want them to keep going. Most of all, though, I want people to know they are not alone. That someone cares about them. That they are doing some good in the world even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

For the past year, my goal as president of Doctors of BC has been to keep us all safe, to keep our well-being intact, and to extract something good from all of the awfulness around us. This has become increasingly difficult as the pandemic has worn on. Frustration and anger seem to be building on many fronts. I get it. There are so many things to be upset about, so many things that could—or should—be different. We live in a time when people are protesting in front of hospitals, storming into schools, making claims that insult real victims of genocide, and hurling more than just insults at our leaders. Fear, mistrust, and even hatred abound. There are deep divisions.

We are also coming to grips with the toll that misinformation has taken, significantly hampering pandemic response efforts, frustrating the vaccination campaign, and leading many people to preventable deaths.

But right now we have to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to be—to live in—when we get to the other side of this pandemic. Because while this crisis may not end with the emphatic punctuation that many of us would have hoped, it will subside in time. Do we want a society based on mutual respect, civil debate, and inclusiveness? Or one where the loudest and most pugnacious voices prevail? Do we want a society that allows for healthy debate and balanced viewpoints? Or the fomenting of extreme views on every topic?

I know what kind of society I want, and I know how I’m going to contribute to it. I’m going to keep sending thank-you notes to people. I’m going to keep encouraging people who bring balanced perspectives to difficult problems. I’m going to celebrate people’s courage. I’m going to lift people up when they are falling down. I’m going to keep sharing my gratitude.

Because judging from the responses I’ve received to my notes, a little gratitude, a little encouragement, and a little show of kindness do more than you think.
—Matthew C. Chow, MD
Doctors of BC President

Matthew C. Chow, MD. Kindness matters. BCMJ, Vol. 63, No. 9, November, 2021, Page(s) 363 - President's Comment.

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Anita Marie Early says: reply

Thanks for the reminder! I needed that today :)

Donna Sue says: reply

Thank you Matt for being an inspiring leader at the time we need it most. Your messages and blogs are a joy to read!

Tanya Wulff says: reply

Dr. Chow, your caring, empathy and authentic expressions of concern in this time of a pandemic, toxic drug deaths and now climate change crises inspire all of us. I read them over and over again. As a retired child psychiatrist with over 50 years of medical practice behind me, it is gratifying to know that our world is in good hands. Thank you :-)

Maureen Conly says: reply

Thanks for doing that appreciation practice Dr.Chow. We do all need a boost in a stressful time. Right back at ‘cha…

Ken Burns says: reply

What a wonderful role model you have been!!!
I want to be like you so be ready for a sticky note coming in your direction and in many other directions
Thank you so much Mat

Ida Gallo says: reply

And keep sending your notes. Your simple yet poignant letter is inspiring

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