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Simon Fox in his Santa Barbara office with a coveted International Health and Medical Media "Freddie" award from 2004

Paul Wellman

Simon Fox in his Santa Barbara office with a coveted International Health and Medical Media "Freddie" award from 2004


The S.B. Questionnaire: Simon Fox

Inside the Mind of a Professional Compassion Cultivator


Simon Fox is in the business of cultivating compassion. As the executive director of Adventures in Caring, he runs an all-volunteer team that lifts the spirits and consistently delivers compassion, encouragement, and joy to the bedsides of countless hospital patients all year round.

It started 30 years ago, when Simon’s wife, Karen — who was battling cancer herself — decided to dress up as Raggedy Ann and visit the sick and lonely patients of Cottage Hospital, bringing both hope and happiness. Today, Adventures in Caring offers a variety of education programs that promote compassion in health care for both volunteer caregivers and health-care professionals. They hold seminars, prepare instructional DVDs, and publish special guides, as well. And they keep seeing patients, to date clocking in more than one million hospital visits.

On Thursday, June 19, they’ll premiere their latest program, Oxygen for Caregivers: Guarding Against Burnout, Sustaining Compassion at 4:30 p.m. inside the New Vic Theatre. See AdventuresInCaring.org for more info, and for reservations, email Paige@AdventuresInCaring.org or call 805-962-4500 ext. 7.

Amid his compassionate work, Simon kindly agreed to answer the Proust Questionnaire.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Immigrating to the United States by myself, building a life here, and making a contribution to the quality of health care in America through the Adventures in Caring Foundation, where we have made the practice of compassion visible, teachable, and replicable.

What is it you like most about your job?

I love the fusion of personal growth and volunteer service in our programs, which gets the best out of both. We are able to make the healing power of love real — and it transforms both the giver and the receiver. It’s the alchemy of compassion at work in the service of healing. Every year, right before our very eyes, we see the profound transformation that takes place in the lives, relationships, and skills of our student volunteers.

What is your greatest fear?

Missing my karmic opportunities. Not following my soul’s calling.

Who do you most admire?

My spiritual teacher, for daring to tell the truth straight-up so consistently throughout his life, despite the fact that it cost him so much to do that.

On what occasion do you lie?

When people ask how my wife, Karen, is doing. She puts on a brave face but is suffering far more than people know. So I modify my comments so that the extremes and unknowns we face don’t depress or traumatize others.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Ever? I think most people would consider it to be giving away all my worldly possessions and going on a spiritual odyssey for 10 years. I don’t consider it an extravagance — it was essential to following my soul’s calling.

Now, it’s listening to everything by Mark Knopfler, watching the 49ers football games, and occasionally losing myself in a thriller by Vince Flynn or Daniel Silva.

What is your current state of mind?

Mostly grateful and occasionally worried. I’m humbled by the many profound blessings in my life, and I try to stay mindful of the sacrifices others have made for me.

What is the quality you most like in people?

True to heart, adventurously. My wife, Karen, to me, is the ultimate embodiment of this.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Willful blindness and deceit. The betrayal of truth by those who know better.

What do you most value in friends?

Their wonderfully balanced blend of humor and wisdom, from the heart. Their authenticity. And putting up with me despite my failings.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Perseverance.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“… you know.”

Which talent would you most like to have?

Musical talent: to write and perform songs, to be able to sing and play an instrument in public.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Not speaking up (and everything that causes that).

Where would you most like to live?

Where I live now: in our home in Santa Barbara. If I were to have a bumper sticker, it would say: I’d rather be here now.

What is your most treasured possession?

My wedding ring.

Who makes you laugh the most?

Kai, my 3-year-old grandson.

What is your motto?

Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven. My spiritual life comes first. To me that means to love, serve, and discover God with all my heart, mind, and strength — and the spark of Divinity within all of life. I love the quote by Thomas Vaughan, a 16th century alchemist: “Have thy heart in heaven and thy hands upon the earth. Ascend in piety and descend in charity. For this is the Nature of Light and the way of the children of it.”

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I look to Jesus first, and also Krishna, Buddha, Lao Tsu, and Moses. I do my best to follow in their footsteps. So I identify with anyone else who has tried to do the same, such as Arjuna, Abraham Lincoln, and Florence Nightingale.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Living in conscious union with the One Life. Being in the luminous company of the Great, and being evolved enough to cooperate with them in their works to build an enlightened civilization.

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