There's a proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child." While I agree to an extent, I disagree with that statement. I do believe that it takes a village to raise a child but once that child is raised and grown, it takes a community to support to help it flourish and grow. While my core hasn't changed, I feel that I am always growing and changing--and a large part of that comes from the environment I'm in and the community I've chosen to surround me. I think there's this notion that once you reach a certain age or a certain milestone in life, you've figured it all out. You're capable, you're smart and you're (hopefully) equipped with all of the tools and knowledge that you need to conquer the world and make it your own. So what happens at this point if you stumble and fall or if something changes in your life that turns it upside down? That's when I think you need your community the most.
I've had two (separate) friends recently get diagnosed with health issues that have shaken their world. Both of my friends are similar. Both always seem to have a smile on their face. Both have this genuine way of asking you how you're doing and truly wanting to know. And both are optimists, always looking for the silver lining or the positive side of things. One day she (both are females) was just living her life like she normally is and the next thing she knows, the doctor is giving her news that changes her world. Both of them have had to undergo tests to understand what's happening, both of them have been in situations of great ambiguity with no information at hand and both of them have had to make life changes to accommodate. What they have and who they are isn't important, what struck me is the rallying community around them.
For one friend, she is a seasoned professional with a family, life was always go go go, but with this news she's been forced to pause. Her reaction and mindset was always, "Give me more information. What's the plan of action? Let's fight this thing." In talking to her, she still has that optimism and gracious attitude, but she's taken the time to listen to her body and put herself first. She's been humbled by all of the people who have reached out, all of the people who are taking care of her AND her family, and by the outpouring of support and care. As someone who knows her, this isn't a shock. You reap what you sow and though tough and different for her, she's allowing herself to accept the help, the support and the care with graciousness.My other friend, a younger female who's far from family, is really focused on her goals and working hard to achieve them. Her news made her stop and really think about what the future would hold and how that might change her day-to-day life. When you have a plan, a plan that you're working so hard on, a change can toss your world upside down and you with it, but not her. Her reaction and mindset was confusion at first but quickly developed into wanting to learn more, understand more and figure out the best course of action to not let the diagnosis change her life, but rather adapt her life to manage both. Her willingness to lean on her community, ask her community for help and make tough decisions is inspiring, especially given her age. What's even more inspiring is her desire to want to stay true to herself, her optimistic self. The result: a daily gratitude project that reminds all of us that even on the days where nothing good seems to happen, there are good things happening if you look for them.
My hope is that if/when I'm put in a similar situation, I have an ounce of the optimism, courage and grace that these women have shown me. You can't choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you react to it--and you can choose to be part of a community that will help you through it. What does your community do for you?