The Origin of the Name Kara

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The Origin of the Name Kara

Kara candlelight service

Dr. Charles Garfield (who developed the peer support model for Shanti in the early 1970s and on which our organization bases our peer grief support service delivery), was instrumental in choosing our current agency name. When asked to select a new name, he wanted to ensure that it conveyed a real link between care and grief and his recommendation of “Kara” was inspired from the writings of Henry Nouwen. In fact, when Dr. Garfield informed Henry Nouwen that Kara had been chosen for the agency name, he was quite delighted.

In his book, Out of Solitude, Nouwen writes some poignant thoughts on caring and grief:

Real care is not ambiguous. Real care excludes indifference and is the opposite of apathy. The word "care" finds its roots in the gothic "Kara" which means lament. The basic meaning of care is: to grieve, to experience sorrow, to cry out with. I am very much struck by this background of the word care because we tend to look at caring as an attitude of the strong toward the weak, of the powerful toward the powerless, of the "haves" toward the "have-nots." And, in fact, we feel quite uncomfortable with an invitation to enter into someone's pain before doing something about it.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.