Just your circle, no one else’s. That’s what I have been concentrating on lately. DH has been a big proponenet of this for a while and I’m not sure, but maybe I just needed some context for what it really meant, but I really got it last week. Big lightbulb moment for me. I coordinate the mom’s group, The LS Chatterbox Cafe’, at my church where we meet once a month and I was, as I always am, hurriedly dashing into the gathering and making sure that everyone “saw” where we were just in case they wanted to join. So, we were talking about how Facebook has changed how we interact with our friends, relatives and pretty much everyone we’ve ever met. Its so different from 10 or 15 years ago when you closed a chapter of your life and then it was well, closed. You didn’t have to revisit those memories, people, experiences again, unless you wanted to and actually sought it out. Now, it pretty much hunts you down. I’m friends on Facebook with people that I went to high school with who remember me vividly, but I have no memory of them. Its odd. Also though, we’re bombarded with hardships and illness of friends of friends of friends and long lost relatives. Its overwhelming. As humans, we’re not wired to process those kinds of hardships and obstacles on that scale without feeling like there is imminent doom. As an example, my anxiety occasionally gets kicked into high gear just from watching the news and reading Facebook. We have a 24-hour news cycle now and can connect instantaneously with others all over the globe. Wonderful, yes? Yes. But also difficult for some people, like me, to process. I can’t help my friend’s friend’s cousin’s brother who is dealing with chemotherapy, except to perhaps send a Facebook note. What I can do however is do MY circle. I can send a home cooked meal from TakeThemAMeal.com to a woman going through chemotherapy in my Thursday Mom’s Group so that her family won’t have to worry about dinner for that night. (I know, I know, I have several moms’ groups. Ha!) I can drop off charitable items for a local charity that then resells (or gifts) the items to community families. I can attend my local alderman’s meeting to vote about changes to our neighborhood and voice my concerns. If everyone does their circle, then good works get done, people are cared for, voices are heard and communities are built.
So, instead of sticking your head in the sand the next time you feel overwhelmed on Facebook and declaring that you can’t do anything to help all the “bad” in the world, so you shouldn’t do anything at all. Reach out to your circle and just do that. Do your circle. It will help. It really will and you’ll be able to see it. Think of it like little baby steps. Do baby steps.
In case you may not know where to get started (say you’re in a new community or your life situation has recently changed), try some of these things.
- Attend a PTA or other school meeting and get involved! If you have an activity that you want to see for your child at school, get involved and make it happen. If you have a special needs child and the program at your school isn’t cutting it, get involved and make those changes. You’d be surprised how much power parents have.
- Attend your neighborhood or Alderman’s meeting. Investing in your community makes it safer. Get to know your neighbors. Make playdates with kids close by.
- Join a play group or specialized support group if appropriate. (Austism, special needs, etc) The best advice you’ll get is from others who have been in your situation.
- Find a church. Really research them. Find one that fits your family. Not feeling religious? What about spiritual? Try a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
- Are you a stay-at-home parent? May I suggest joining a parent group? You would be surprised at how much free information and assistance you can get just by being part of a group. Babysitting swaps, doctor references, a helping hand at home when you’re sick. Be a friend, make a friend.
- Get to know your neighbors. I said it before, I’m saying it again. Who are the people next door? Do they have kids? A dog? What is the dog’s name? Do you know the people in your condo building? Where are they from? What holidays do they celebrate? What can you give without really giving…. that would create neighborly bonds (maybe not quite friendships?) in your area. Its kind of a selfish thing really. We once let some neighbors park in our driveway for a couple of weeks (!!) because they were waiting on some documentation for their vehicle to make it legal for them to park on the street. Firstly, you have to know that we don’t use our driveway, almost ever. We literally did almost nothing, but it helped them out so much. But, we know them. We know they kind of “keep an eye out” for things going on around the back-side of our house that we can’t see. They once sat in their vehicle for an hour in front of our garage because they saw that I forgot to close our garage door and they didn’t want anyone to steal anything from our garage! We borrow tools from one another and our kids occasionally play games in the park together. If you have a porch, sit out front occasionally and get to know who walks by. Its worth it. Its valuable.