One of the most powerful things about a truly supportive community is that it has a role for everyone to play. Supportive communities are filled with individuals taking steps to not only better care for themselves, but who are actively working to care for their community. Often, when we think about what it means to care for our community, we think about formal activities like volunteering, donating, or getting involved with a local organization. Those are all important and can bring richness and fulfillment to our lives, but I think that the real power of community care comes not from those activities, but from the many moments we have throughout the day where we have the opportunity to care for one another.
Caring for one another doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money, and it doesn’t have to take any special skills or tools to do. I find that when I really try, I can see dozens of little ways every day that I can better support the people in my life. Often it starts at home with me finding intentional ways to show my love and care for my family. Maybe I’ll get up a little earlier so I can start the coffee pot for my spouse or finish up the dishes from last night. Maybe when I see my child come down ready for school, I can take a moment to check in with them about their day or follow-up on a story they told me a few days ago. Those moments are small, but I believe they can be the start of something much bigger.
While each day is different, I find that each day holds many more opportunities to care for those in my community. During my commute, it could be as small as a wave to a passing driver or as big as pulling over to help a stranded motorist. At work, I might take an extra couple of minutes to check in with a staff member that has been struggling with problems at home. I may also try to find a way to use the resources we have to organize an event or program to support my team’s well-being. There are so many opportunities we have to slow down, notice what is happening in the lives of those around us, and reach out and care for them.
We also have to remember that while caring for others is important and powerful, in order to be able to do so, we must remember to care for ourselves. There is an expression that “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and that means that in order to be able to find all those small moments to support others, we must first find the moments to help ourselves. Doing something every single day, even if it’s as simple as taking a quiet bath or journaling can help make sure that we have the strength to care for our community. If you want to learn more about what you can do to create an alive and well community, visit www.aliveandwellstl.com.
By Joe Yancey
Chair of the Community Advisory Board of the St. Louis Regional Health Commission
Executive Director of Places for People