Everyone has something unique to give
The health disparities in our community are widening, a fact which most of us already know. We have separated ourselves and each other into the “haves” and the “have nots” based on wealth, health, education, race, and every other demographic segment. Demographic segments are necessary for many reasons, but not for building stronger communities.
We have a disturbing undercurrent that suggests “valuable members” are limited to the young, the healthy, and those with impressive jobs and resumes. Our isolation lifestyle masquerades as convenience and independence only to compound the problem. We know our community will continue to crumble if we don’t do something more.
But what can we do?
The Solution Starts Simple: Opportunity for Reciprocity
People need to know they are necessary for the growth and improvement of the entire community regardless of their demographic information, health status, and behavior struggles. How better to show them their value than to invite them to teach others what they love? For example, a person might battle obesity but be a dinosaur expert. Or, someone may have a debilitating physical illness but can crochet a sweater with a sloth riding a turtle on the front.
Let the skills and strengths of our people become part of the community framework. For example, in the case of the dinosaur expert, let her design and lead a pseudo dinosaur expedition for the after school program nearest her home. (After a thorough background check, of course). The kids could even have a fossil dig in a donated pile of dirt for at the end. The “fossils” could be something useful, like a packaged toothbrush put inside a baggy.
Simple innovation meets multiple needs. Ms. Dinosaur gets critical exercise by leading an active educational experience. The children learn something new while receiving necessary hygiene supplies and moving their growing bodies. Both parties get to know each other and share in the everyday joy.
Why Mattering to Others Matters
The answer starts with the idea, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” When people know they matter, they are much more likely to let others into their lives. Without others, physically and mentally present others, where do people turn for connection and help? The internet. Food. Drugs, gambling, and every other momentary bandage promising holistic healing. All of which are contributing to the rapid decline of behavioral health.
Imagine if people turned to each other instead. Building relationships that run deep and outside of circumstances will go far to turn people outward and upward in times of trial instead of inward and downward. An improvement in their quality of life becomes a natural consequence.
I have wrestled how to help our people, and the answer is clear, “I can see no way out but through.” – Robert Frost. I will add with. We must work through the problems by working with the people.