In our last article, the Westfield Mental Health Council introduced its concept of CAKE, which is an acronym for behaviors that we are working to promote: compassion, acceptance, kindness, empathy. These are the “ingredients” that can enable a stigma-free community.

We believe that the principles of CAKE can assist us in creating a team-based response to the issues that confront us — in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

What is compassion? Webster’s defines compassion as “sympathetic concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.”

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Compassion is what empowers us as a community to move beyond witnessing events or circumstances with care to taking action on those feelings — and then uniting in our action to have the greatest positive impact. Instead of two hands, we want to apply four hands, eight hands, 26 hands 138 hands, and even more, to meet the opportunity to care through action, not just thoughts or words.

Community compassion is simple, if we work together. Look at some of the things we have already done as a community. Jon Rzeznik of the GooGoo Dolls had a simple idea for a porch concert and as a community we turned it into more than $240K in a We Love Local Fund to support retail businesses. Joe and Audrey Mindak painted a patriotic pallet, and now residents have bought hundreds of them to raise almost $10K to date. 

Feed the Frontline, started by Steve and Michelle Voice in an effort to support healthcare workers and our local restaurants, has raised $102K from over one thousand donors. The fundraising levels are impressive, for sure, but it is the acts of community compassion keeping these activities going that are the key. 

Small acts are just as important as these larger ones. The acts of compassion that are occurring inside the walls of your own home or across the fences between yards are tremendously impactful, and all of these gestures spread a vital message of care as we build connections even while socially distanced. 

Gathering everyone in a virtual setting where we can find these shared feelings is our first task, and we hope that the CAKE banner will give us these opportunities. You can find more information on the CAKE initiative, as well as additional mental health resources at www.westfieldnj.gov/mentalhealth. Lastly, please feel free to send your CAKE-filled thoughts and ideas to cake@westfieldnj.gov.