The Importance of Community Care
In recent years, there has been too much emphasis on self-care. The good news is that through self-care, more people are learning to take responsibility for their well-being. However, not everyone has the time or resources needed to do so.
This is why community care needs to be on everyone's radar; it's the best way to ensure that the needs of the most marginalized people, including people with disabilities, are met. Unlike self-care, community care recognizes that not everyone has equal access to money and time—the primary resources required for self-care.
Furthermore, community care reminds us that, as human beings, we are interdependent. When someone suffers, those within that person's circle are inadvertently affected, too. We need other people in our lives. According to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the third level speaks of the importance of a "sense of belonging and love." We have an innate psychological need for relationships and, for many of us, those relationships are vital to meeting our physiological needs. We all need human connection, and the more others can care for themselves, the better off we all are.
If you have the resources to practice self-care, keep going! However, don't forget the ones around you who can't. We outlined some ideas below to help you shift your thinking to community care and reach out to those who need it.
We underestimate the power of asking someone how they're doing and how they feel. So, make it a point to allot some time in your day to check in with at least one person and listen to what they have to say.
If you see an opportunity for you to help with something, like babysitting the kids while they go to physical therapy, make an offer. If you can't help, you can still show moral support.
Our society has glorified being busy and put too much emphasis on celebrating accomplishments. However, this can lead to an imbalance. Because the world leans too much on a particular definition of success, people tend to deprioritize rest in favor of increasing productivity as they seek a higher sense of self-worth by plowing through endless to-do lists.
The good news is that communities can help individuals prioritize rest and well-being. As most people need external permission to take some time off, the community to which they belong can give it to them. You can provide them with that permission.
If someone in your community is pushing themselves to learn how to walk on their prosthetic leg even though they need to rest, remind them to rest. They may feel pressured to get back to their life, and hearing someone tell them to rest may be the permission they need to stop being hard on themselves.
If there's someone in your life who's spending the majority of their waking hours working and caring for other people, remind them that rest is necessary and possible for them. You might prevent someone from burning out.
With all the tasks that need to be completed, we can easily forget to relax and enjoy other people's company. So, make a bit of time to play an old-fashioned board game, take a class (whether online or in-person) together, or watch a movie. Doing so will allow you to strengthen your connection with others, not merely by the struggles you share but by your common humanity.
We experience similar circumstances with specific people. While you might not be able to do much about being in quarantine or working with the same difficult colleague, you can talk about it. This is empathy.
Empathy is feeling and understanding what someone else is going through. It validates someone else's thoughts and feelings and lets them know that they're seen. It is different from feeling bad for someone or dwelling on an issue.
At the core of community care is acknowledging that not everyone is privileged enough to stand up for themselves and assert their needs. So, if you have that privilege, stand up for those who can't.
Often, people with visible or invisible disabilities have to deal with being judged. Many are at the receiving end of discrimination or harassment, especially when other people don't understand what they're going through.
If you see someone being insulted or harassed, you can intervene. You can tell the offender firmly and clearly to stop and that what they're doing is wrong. Then check the wronged person and see if they need further support. If this happens in the workplace, you can support them by escalating a complaint to human resources. Remember that the reason community care is effective is that it eases the burden other people carry.
Look out for each other
Our interdependency makes community care important. While self-care will continue to be necessary, it's equally important to be attuned to other people's needs. Community care reminds us that we don't need to deal with challenges alone, but we need to find better ways to live together.Although we will never be immune to difficulties, the knowledge that we can rely on an entire community is everything we need to push through.