Monday, March 3, 2014

The Value of Community

We talk a lot about community at Womencare- we honor it, celebrate it, and use it to support ourselves and our clients.  We recently posted a blog about the power of groups... in all the thought and discussion, I became aware of a self-truth I’d never before acknowledged. As much as in my head I celebrate the power of groups, it isn’t a natural inclination. I had to truly learn the full value of community, by being embraced within a community I’d never intended to join.

Several years ago, when my son was born, and it became clear that he had special needs, my impulse was to bunker down within myself and my family until I figured it out and figured out how to name it to the world. Fortunately, other members of my family had a different wisdom they tapped, and called in the troops.  I resented the intrusion at the time, but the food and love the troops brought helped immensely.  And later I realized that the people who responded or showed up registered somewhere on my heart as family, regardless of where they had fit earlier.

Sometimes we need community in ways we could never have anticipated- for support, for information, for validation. After fighting my own discomfort, I got in my car one day and headed to a meeting of other families with kids with special needs.  I needed to- I just didn’t have access to the kind of wisdom I truly value above all others and so desperately needed- the wisdom of shared experience. Over time, I found my way to greater comfort and competence as the kind of mother I’d never imagined becoming, through sharing with and the active support of others. For a year, I drove over an hour each way to connect with people in similar circumstances. Just so we’re clear… I get bored driving long distances, but the train didn’t reach my destination, and I had come to realize how much I needed this support.

When presenting, I smile to find myself passionately advocating the importance of community and the power of groups- and I do so from the stance of someone who, rather reluctantly, was pushed into a place of needing it, had to learn it over time... and found more benefit than she’d ever imagined possible.  

-Ellen Lonnquist, MS, LMFT

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