Written by Vickie Cammack – PLAN’s co-founder
Every day, their natural caring actions touch almost every one of us.
According to the most recent General Social Survey 82% of Canadians over 15 reported helping people directly. That is almost twice as many who formally volunteer. Helping people directly means caring for one another freely and naturally without the involvement of an organization or a group.
The GSS reveals that eight in ten of us helped extended family members, neighbours, colleagues and even strangers with things like making meals, picking up prescriptions, doing household repairs, mowing lawns, driving to appointments, completing paperwork and so on. And 31% of us did so on a weekly basis.
The good news about Canadians caring continues. While men tend to do more household maintenance and women more personal care, Canadian women and men are equally likely to help others directly. And whether we were born in or outside Canada our rates of caring others are almost identical.
The intergenerational findings are also heartening. A whopping 91% of 15 to 19 year olds reported they had provided help to someone outside the home and 55% of Canadians over 75 (who are after all are most likely to be the recipients of care themselves) were providing some type of direct help to others.
Caring is in our DNA. Long before we were a country, like the forests, water and cold it was here. Thanks to Canada’s original inhabitants the early European settlers survived. The indigenous peoples of Canada welcomed, mentored and directly cared for many of them. And over the course of the last 150 years we have often had to care for one another other through the bitter of winter or during natural disasters.
But our innate call to care goes beyond an emergency response. We were the first country in the world to establish a private citizen refugee sponsorship program. From Charlotte City to Iqualuit and Goose Bay 300,000 refugees have been welcomed. This program has millions of ordinary Canadians demonstrating their caring nature. By running errands, providing housing, finding schools, preparing meals, giving music lessons and countless other every day acts of kindness they are showing soon to be Canadians what we are made of.
Certainly we are far from perfect. There are many historical and current situations that can be readily surfaced to demonstrate other facets of our nature. But we cannot deny that we are a country with a caring majority, a country where almost every citizen freely and naturally cares for their friends family members, neighbours and co-workers who are elderly, sick, disabled or down on their luck.
There is an odd and perhaps uniquely Canadian thing about caring. We hide it under a bushel basket. Very few of us actually self identify as caregivers. We don’t see caring as a role but as the stuff of everyday life. We see ourselves as ordinary people doing what comes naturally.
Canada may be known as the great frozen north but it is the warmth of the caring majority that distinguishes and nourishes us. That is something worth celebrating. So on Canada’s 150th birthday let’s pause give a special shout out to:
- Indigenous people who established virtues of hospitality and sharing in our DNA
- The young people who care for their parents, siblings and peers
- The new Canadians who bring a spirit of caring that creates connections across cultures
- The thousands of paid care providers who regularly demonstrate caring above and beyond their prescribed roles
- Those who receive care with dignity
And while you are it take time to appreciate your own caring nature. If you are not caring for someone today, you will be tomorrow. And you will know exactly what to do. It’s who you are.