Care and Kindness Can Help This Country Heal

Symbol and shape of heart created from hands.The concept of unity, cooperation, partnership, teamwork and charity.

The past four years have been a rocky road—and I don’t mean ice cream! Political polarization and turmoil, a worldwide pandemic and quarantine, racial tension, a challenged economy, and climate change have caused huge rifts among the American people. The outcome of the 2020 presidential election illustrated the huge chasm that exists in this country. An important question on the minds of many is this: What will it take to bring this country together again?

I feel we need to focus on the interests and values that most Americans share, starting with care and kindness. On a personal level, I think most people support the Golden Rule (treating others as you want to be treated). I hope we can keep care, kindness, respect, and empathy front and center as national, state, and local leaders look for solutions, and let those values color our personal interactions with family, friends, and neighbors, as well as new acquaintances.

Most of us share other values, including freedom, health, happiness, and justice. These can be interpreted in vastly different ways. Please think about what they mean to you, and what they may mean to people with political beliefs that differ from your own. Are we really that different? Or have we become jaded from social media and TV sound bites? What is our common ground? Let’s lead with that!

If you review my AgeWise articles over the past year (see Issue Archives), you’ll see that advocacy, compassion, empathy, and racial equity are recurring themes. Let’s overlay these with care and kindness. These values are necessary to cure what ails us, whether it’s the COVID pandemic or providing ongoing support for older people, adults with disabilities, and families. These qualities are necessary for participatory democracy, in which the people find the consensus needed to guide and shape government and all the programs and services that people need to live a better life.

Reflecting on the Past Three Years

As 2020 comes to an end, I am completing my third consecutive year as chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council. A new chair will be elected this month. I also served as Advisory Council chair in 2015 and have served as a council member for more years than I can count. It is a labor of love and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

In particular, I have enjoyed advocacy events, which include Senior Lobby Days in Olympia (once an annual event, we typically visit at least twice during legislative sessions now), the Washington State Senior Lobby Fall Conference, the annual joint meeting of the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging (W4A) and State Council on Aging plus regular meetings of both organizations, monthly Advisory Council meetings and related committee work, and meetings and activities with the new statewide Long-Term Care Coalition.

I know this work has made a difference because we have yet to see worst-case scenarios implemented. Area Agency on Aging advisors and other advocates from across Washington state have been effective in telling real-life stories about clients, family, and friends who have needed Aging Network services. Perhaps our elected officials imagine their own mothers and fathers or grandparents. Perhaps they see themselves in a few years. It’s well they should—almost every older person I know has depended on Area Agency on Aging services at some point in their lives so far, whether they made a one-time inquiry or needed long-term support.

I want to give a big shout-out to Aging and Disability Services (ADS) director Cathy Knight, our coordinator Sariga Santhosh, and other ADS staff who have supported the Advisory Council. ADS offers expert guidance on all issues related to aging and disabilities. I remain extremely thankful for their expertise and presence in our community.

Contributor Ava Frisinger chairs the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. She welcomes input from readers via e-mail ( as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of AgeWise King County