Communities Stepping Up
As a society we have offloaded our responsibility to care for those who are most vulnerable to the professionals. What that has done is to simultaneously overburden the professional sector and disempower communities.
I have written and spoken previously about a development that I call “the professionalization of care” (see, for example, this issue of the Shalem Digest, a video introduction to WrapAround, and a recent blog). The outcomes of this development with people who are marginalized are not good.
To change this—and to improve outcomes—professionals and communities need to work together in a much different way than they presently do. Professionals need to learn how to embed themselves in communities, and communities need to step up and assume their rightful responsibilities.
So when, in that light, communities do step up, it’s important to take notice and celebrate. Here are two recent community initiatives that I am aware of that deserve all kinds of attention, support and accolades.
The first is the Peace River Region Restorative Justice Association.
The Power of Sharing our Stories
Sometimes it’s as short as “me too.” Other times it is a much longer story. Sometimes it is as public as a share on social media, and sometimes it’s as private and confidential as in a therapist’s office. Sharing our stories can have a powerful effect.
Telling someone for the first time about a negative or hurtful experience can help us name and acknowledge what happened. Putting it into words allows us to begin to put the responsibility where it belongs, to confirm in our spirits that it wasn’t okay.
Telling our stories can have a powerful effect in reducing the shame as what was previously secret or hidden is brought into the light. And having the one listening believe us and confirm that it wasn’t our fault goes a long way in the healing process.
Sometimes the person we first tell turns out to not be a safe person, as we discover when our stories are dismissed, ignored, or turned back in blame on us. It takes even more courage to reach out again until we find a safe person to tell.
Often one person speaking up is a catalyst for others to break the silence and come forward as well.
Recently Alyssa Milano tweeted a suggestion from a friend: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The response has been a powerful chorus of “me too” flooding social media.
The safety in numbers and the recognition of the numbers who might not yet be safe gives us the courage to do what is often too hard to do alone.