60 Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity & Change The World

It’s become such a cliched phrase-something we say and recognize to be true but don’t often act on:

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

What does that even mean?

In the comments, at our Twitter parties, in conversations with other mothers, I am asked all the time- “How can I possibly do it all?”

The hard truth is you can’t.

You can’t be everything to everyone all the time. You can’t be the only one responsible for raising your children, running your business, managing your life. You CANNOT do it all alone. And you don’t have to. You shouldn’t even try!

The superwoman myth is so dangerous to our motherhood. It causes us to not ask for or allow ourselves to receive help and to deny when we feel vulnerable, needy, or afraid. It also puts up walls and barriers that keep us from reaching out to others and building a community that knows us for who we really are. We present what we want the world to see, the very best parts of who we think we are, but beneath it all:

jean vanier, sixty ways to build community, you are not alone, sustainable community development

{Quote by Jean Vanier, Becoming Human }

And to me that is what is most beautiful about us. What unites us all no matter how diverse we might seem to be, is that we all need to belong, we all need support. Why deny that? Embrace it, that is where our humanity lives and where compassion comes from. Our brokenness is our biggest strength.

Jean Vanier is the leader of the L’Arche movement, a powerful community model that brings diverse people together to support people with disabilities in loving environments. His words are a call for all of us to live more compassionate and humane lives. He is also one of my personal heros and I am going to tell you why.

My mother was a young, visibly ethnic, single mama who had no family support while I was growing up. My nana was a brilliant artist but a truly awful mother, she was abusive, had serious baggage and offered my mother no support or encouragement. So it was little wonder that my mother felt called to help people who were suffering, to give them what she didn’t have. She worked in mental health and community development for people with disabilities and I often came to work with her. I have so many wonderful memories of visiting the group homes my mother worked in and spending time with people of every ability. This is such a huge part of who I am and how I see the world, but there was a price paid. My mother spent her days helping others and then came home to cater to my needs. No one was there to support her. She really did do it all alone and it took it’s toll on her physical and mental health. My childhood was beautiful but also incredibly hard, filled with loss and struggle.

When I moved out I was drawn to the same work but specifically with women, youth, and children. I have always wanted to offer people the support we never had when I was a child. No one should have to suffer alone or in fear. How I do that work has changed over the years but even here on OMHG it’s the same fundamental mission. To share love, be loved, spread love. Through handmade, yes. But mostly through connecting people with others and making them feel less alone and more empowered. This is the root of Jean Vanier’s philosophy:

jean vanier, sixty ways to build community, you are not alone, sustainable community development

If you are feeling like you just can’t do it all and you’re all alone-reach out! Open up. Creating community is the biggest investment you will ever make for yourself and of course for your business. Build both your local and online communities, connect with other people whose stories you care about, who you can be honest with, and who will be there for you when you are struggling. Be there for them. Stop trying to do it all alone, you will always feel like you are missing something and falling short. So whether you are a single mother struggling to fill the role of both mama and papa, or you have a large extended family, or a ton of supportive friends- it doesn’t matter. Your community is right there, waiting for you to  lend a hand or ask for someone to hold yours. Both are wonderful, both are needed.

It is just as important to accept help as to offer it, community building is about reciprocity. A give and take. So if you are in a position of strength offer help, if you see someone struggling stop and see if they will accept support, just be there for each other. Sometimes when we give help we actually get the help that we need. It’s amazing that way.

I only have one caution-only offer what you are really able to give. Don’t offer because you think you should but don’t really want to do. Never give out of obligation or guilt. I don’t give because I want to feel good about myself, I give because I DO feel good about myself, because giving is it’s own reward and always teaches me something new. But also because I want our children to have a village and it’s up to us to make that happen.

60 ways to build community, save your sanity and change the world

Here is a printable list of 60 ways I have built/am building community, just click here to download your own. Please add your own ideas in the comments starting with #61! Can we get to 100? How about 200? 1000? If we get enough I’ll collect them all into a download to share on OMHG.

All Oh My! Handmade Goodness printables and free downloads are for non-commercial, personal use only please. Copyright is owned by the designer unless otherwise stated.  If you have a commercial inquiry please contact the designer or email the editor. Please don’t host the PDF on your own site, we love sharing but link to the original post for the download, thanks!