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At the Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts, we hope to foster a comfortable environment for people to engage in honest discussions around the challenges in their lives, and to explore how people outside traditional religion approach questions that many faith traditions engage regularly. Our day to day lives, on campus and off, can be challenging just as they are exciting, but we don’t always have a structured hour in the week to sit down and reflect on the way we’ve grown, and the lessons we can learn from the experiences of others.

At small group reflections, the Humanist in Residence facilitates an open, respectful, and confidential conversation around a chosen theme that concerns and informs many of our choices and experiences in our life journey. The conversation is rooted in a text (or other piece of culture) written from a Humanist perspective that engages the theme, and from there will be open to the perspectives and experiences of everyone present in the group. Those present are encouraged to bring pieces of culture that inspire their own values on the theme, including and especially those from other faith traditions.

The upcoming small group reflection will explore caregiving–how do we feel supported, and how do we support those around us–led through a passage from an essay by Harvard Divinity School professor Cheryl Giles. It will be on Monday, September 28th, at 9pm in the Interfaith Center downstairs meeting room. Small group reflections are open to all members of the Tufts community, irrespective of anyone’s belief background. Light refreshments will be served!


Dr. Cheryl A. Giles is the Francis Greenwood Peabody Senior Lecturer on Pastoral Care and Counseling at Harvard Divinity School. An author and teacher in the field of contemplative care and caring for the dying, she has helped craft what we understand to be caregiving–spiritual and secular–in the field of chaplaincy today. A practicing Buddhist, she joined us last January for a conversation on Humanist caregiving at a joint event with the Humanist Hub.

The passage below comes from her essay “Beyond the Color Line: Cultivating Fearlessness in Contemplative Care.” Though she’s writing from the perspective of a professional spiritual caregiver, there is a lot to learn and explore about how we care for ourselves and those around us, how we listen, how we support those in need, no matter our role. She writes:

Our practice is to be of benefit to others and to give compassionate care freely and without judgment. When we question whether we can help someone or not, we get caught up in afflictive emotions that get in the way of compassionate care. We struggle with confronting our vulnerability and brokenness. When we lose touch with ourselves, we become overwhelmed, distant, and fearful.

… Every day presents us with many opportunities to [care for others]. But often we get trapped in our past by reacting in old, familiar ways. We latch on to the stories and judgments that we tell ourselves to find comfort, but in the end we find ourselves twisting in habitual patterns.  Our practice becomes one of cultivating fearlessness in all that we do. We bring this attitude to our meditation, work, and interaction with others. Paying attention to our own fears can help us feel compassion for others.

Giles, Cheryl. “Beyond the Color Line: Cultivating Fearlessness in Contemplative Care.” The arts of contemplative care: Pioneering voices in Buddhist chaplaincy and pastoral work. Eds. Cheryl A. Giles, and Willa B. Miller. Simon and Schuster, 2012.