Actively Caring for People

Apr 15, 2013


It has been six years since the tragic shooting at Virginia Tech, when the words, “We are all Hokies” echoed around the world. Recent events suggest these horrific acts show no sign of abating. 

But the Director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems at Virginia Tech believes there may be a solution to this trend of tragedy, which seems to have society in its grip. 

Scott Geller has been a professor of Psychology at Virginia Tech for 43 years.  He began work on his book, called, “Actively Caring for People; Creating a Culture of Compassion” before that awful day six years ago. 

Then the shooting raised new questions in his mind about the subject.

“You know social support is an essential ingredient for victims recovering and healing after a traumatic event.  But what type of social support can benefit an entire community stricken with grief and suffering. Members of the Virginia Tech Community came to find out when a traumatic event is collectively experienced, and important source of healing is community solidarity.”

People who remember that day speak that feeling of solidarity, which swept over them in their grief, like a ray of light in the darkness.   “And the challenge is how do we keep it? Indeed, that’s what my students said to me after the tragedy.  When they saw this happening, when they saw people hugging each other and caring for each other.  How do we keep it going? That’s when the wrist band came into play.”

Geller and his students began passing out number, green wristbands printed with the words, “Actively Caring for People" whenever they saw someone perform some act of kindness. And then, you don’t keep that.  You pass it on to somebody else, who’s nice for you.  And our website tracks these numbers world wide.”

But Geller is looking for way more than random acts of kindness.  He is calling for people to find the deepest kind of compassion in themselves and others. His research identifies building blocks, which form the basis of people actively caring for each other. He says it begins with self-esteem, which gives you the confidence to reach out to help other people. Next is optimism and a sense of autonomy, the idea that you can  do something to help, and finally, that sense of community solidarity.