“Whether we realize it or not, it is our woundedness, or how we cope with it, that dictates much of our behavior, shapes our social habits, and informs our ways of thinking about the world.”
―Gabor Maté, in The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness and Healing in a Toxic Culture
When I’m working in the community, I often see adults who are struggling: with housing, with familial relationships, with money, and with just being. Everyone wants to tell their story.
I listen as much as I can. Whether it’s disheveled people with holes in their pants, people dressed to the nines, all classes of people have suffered—and are still suffering—from a lack of love. As I listen to their stories, I think, Who loved you and what happened to you? Who is loving you now?
There’s little difference between me and the people I try to serve: I, too, need to be seen; to tell my story; to be listened to in confidence: the kind of confidence where two human beings connect in passing, and understanding happens.
Sometimes it’s a head nod of acknowledgement to the dark-skinned Black man with thick glasses, or the smile to the older white woman with the walker. These gestures acknowledge our imperfection, and the fact that loving oneself is hard in the face of relationship ruptures and fragmentations—because we’re more busy protecting ourselves first than connecting. Chronic neglect, abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and very rigid definitions of being in the world have fed our distrust, encouraging us to expect scarcity, cruelty, and loneliness.
Building community in the public requires a heart-centered approach with a mind that is as still as water, so l can reflect the needs of another and appeal towards sustainable possibilities. It includes protecting myself and the people with whom I’m engaged even as it requires vulnerability. It also includes a calm, centered conviction that I am also someone who is of Love, worthy of Love, and loving. This kind of self-compassion is a power that can be cultivated.
The public is full of people—yet that does not automatically make a community. Relationships of trust, and the ability to rest and be in full safety are also necessary. Building relationships requires the risk of being open and curious. Sometimes it requires affirming another person for who they say they are―and not who you want them to be. It requires time, presence, and calm.
Spirit of Life and Love, Let there be safe havens where we can feel at ease; where there is nothing to be done but rest our weariness. Let Love be the sweetness that embraces us in the here and right now. Amen. Àṣẹ. So be it.