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!

  • http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com Rena Klingenberg

    Beautiful and thought provoking – and so true. Thank you.

  • Simone

    So true 🙂 and sometimes all it takes is for a stranger to say THANK YOU when you hold the door open for them… or for the person sitting next to you on the bus to say Excuse Me when they want to get off at their stop… where have these pleasantries gone, I wonder?

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Totally Simone! #61 Common courtesy goes a long way!

  • http://noisettemarketing.com Isa

    So many great things on that list! I can’t think of anything to add off the top of my head but I know have so many ideas of things to do with my children to help build a community locally.

    I did start a Mums in Business group in my town. It was a way to connect with other Mums who may have been feeling isolated running a business alone.

    Also thank you for sharing about your childhood. It all makes sense now! No wonder you are so good at building this community here on OMHG when you have been helping to do this since you were small!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Thank you Isa-so very much. Sharing personal stories in such a public way is a wee bit terrifying but thankfully I have a wonderful community & friends like you to share it with.

      #62 Start a community group & #63 Create opportunities to bring people together-such a wonderful idea! I also see you building community/being supportive on the internet all the time, kindred spirits: )

  • http://rachelmillerpottery.wordpress.com Rachel

    I love this. It’s interesting to hear this viewpoint in light of our society’s ongoing struggle to empower women–I think the vulnerability of saying “I’m not Superwoman” is an inherent part of being strong and capable, and admitting we can’t do it alone is essential to good character. Thanks for encouraging us to reach out.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Thanks for your comment Rachel-I completely agree, to me true strength is the ability to admit weakness, otherwise it’s rigidity & rigid things break! I worry about the type of empowerment women and mothers are exposed too, how we are expected to ever live up to the roles we are marketed? Seems like a recipe for always feeling like a failure. I much prefer to admit when I’m struggling that doesn’t feel like 1/2 the failure of being completely overwhelmed and unable to ask.

  • http://www.allisajacobs.etsy.com Allisa

    What a lovely, thoughtful, and action-inspiring post! Thank you so much for sharing your journey….you are a community builder for sure!

    I grew up in small towns and really miss that feeling of knowing each other and offering/accepting help…and friendship.

    To build on #28, I would add that knowing not just the producers of our food but also how the animals we eat (or don’t) are treated.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      I’ve lived in big cities & tiny, tiny towns-funnily in some small towns I found less community then in neighbourhoods in big cities. It really depends on the community!
      #64 Learn about how the animals you eat are treated-YES! We buy much of our meat from local producers who take pride in how they treat their animals. It’s all about ethics.

  • http://www.asseenontvlife.com/kids/happy-nappers-review.html NotCathy

    This are really true. To build a good community we need all of these. Thanks for sharing..Very inspiring post!

  • http://thirtyhandmadedays.com Mique

    I know I already said it on Twitter, but just wanted to say thank you again for this amazing post. I am inspired and can’t wait to do some good xo, Mique

  • http://acupofchai.typepad.com Candice

    An inspiring post! I live and work in a (mainly) non-English speaking community and at first I found it hard to connect or feel connected with anyone here. I think saying ‘yes’ and accepting invitations from people (even if communicating in the same language is hard) is important in taking that step to build connections. I also found teaching community classes to be helpful in meeting and building friendships with people–draw on your strengths and skills. Thanks for sharing this. It was a wonderful read.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      A wonderful comment Candice, thank you for sharing your story! I have spent a lot of time with people from other cultures & always find it amazing that once people get comfortable language stops mattering & you can start learning to communicate in different ways.
      #65 Say yes to invitations & #67 Teach a class #68Draw on your strengths & skills-such great additions!

  • Tracey rediker

    Your mother sounds so much like my own. Turning her negative upbringing into a need to nurture the world.

  • http://beautyintheblocks.com Kristy

    I loved this post! This list is filled with simple things we can do every day to build a community. Thanks for sharing and for building this great community through your blog!

  • Stephnie Douglas

    Wow! You made me cry – I am amazed and blessed that you are my child. Loved the 60 ways, I think you covered just about everything.
    Community, reciprosity, intentionality and integrity both to others but also to self is vital and you hit those nails right on the head. Superwoman/mom not good, caring but also learning to be cared for, very good. I’m still working on that last one.
    Beautiful work!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Awwww mamasita you’re awesome. I am amazed & blessed that you are my mother & that we continue to learn and grow from each other as we get older and our relationship changes. I love you hugely & not just because you gave me life but because you’re you. <3

  • http://samsstuff-samsstuff.blogspot.com Shelley

    This is a truly beautiful list, filled with the thoughts of a truly caring person. There isn’t much to add. This goes along with #49, but I’d say: Stop & truly take in the words of just one person, without assumptions. Don’t respond until you’ve taken it all in & processed what they are saying. Start with one person & grow your community from there.
    Thank you for publishing this amazing list!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Shelly I love it! Thank you for your comment & for feeling the heart of what I was trying to share. To take in & really allow someone to be heard-without judgement is where community begins, absolutely. One person at a time.

  • http://www.perfectbalancemarketing.com Lucy Thornton

    Thanks for another beautiful post, Jessika.

    Feels extra special that your lovely mum has made an appearance, particularly in this month of mothers’ day posts – thanks Stephnie for your sweet words (and your sweet daughter!)

    #69
    Make the first move. Don’t wait for someone else to start the community (if we all did that nothing would happen).

    Must print your lovely list and stick it to the fridge… xx

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Lucy you’re the sweetest thing! It does feel super special for her to come by this month: )
      And I LOVE #69, waiting doesn’t get anything done, a perfect one to include.

  • http://sundayafternoonhousewife.com Martha / Sunday Afternoon Housewife

    I really enjoyed this article. I am setting out to create a documentary about the indie craft community and I was reading through these thinking about how so many could be translated from general community to the indie craft community and I really helped me think up some ideas. I will be sharing your post on link love on Monday and I hope it gets more people to read your article and involved in community, too.

    I’d like to add a tip, too: Support those who support you!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Thanks for your comment Martha! A documentary sounds really exciting-be sure to let me know how things are progressing: ) I definitely think a lot of community building ideas relate to the indie craft/handmade community which is one of the most loving & supportive I have ever experienced.

      Also a great addition-#70 Support those who support you

  • http://CreativeMamma.com Joy

    Thank you a million times for this post.
    Huge hugs, Jessika (and Jessika’s mom)!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      And super big hugs right back at you lovely!!!

  • http://scrapsandsass.blogspot.com kimberlee

    #71(?) Donate to or volunteer at your local library.

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      That’s a fantastic one Kimberlee-we so love our local library!

  • http://www.welovecraftytracey.com Tracey

    Loved this post again! There is so much I could say, but not without tears. I really do love being out and about and flashing a big smile at people I don’t know, especially those who don’t look like they are having a good day. It’s amazing to see the light that results from something as simple as a smile.

    I really dislike the traditional notion of the “I bring home the bacon and fry it” superwoman archetype. It is so suffer-in-silence for the gen x/y woman. I do think we can have it all, but we have to define for ourselves, what our ALL is. And it will be different for each woman. And ALL is not necessarily what we first thought it was and it will change throughout our lifetime as we grow and expand. Learning to accept our all at each phase and not guilt ourselves. And be open to accepting and asking for help, even when it hurts. And then support each other, be a role model by action to encourage others to define what they need from within and from others, to find their all and join forces to support each other on our quest. Fostering a community of women supporting women, serving others, when you put that love and energy out into the world, its amazing what comes back to you.

    I would add to the list:
    72- Allow yourself to be present, in the moment, at least once every day.
    73- Make someone smile everyday – whether it is telling your partner they did a great job, or telling a stranger they have a beautiful smile.

  • Lisa

    loved this post, I will post it where others will stop, read and soak it in!
    74.offer your hand/help don’t wait to be asked
    75.be a good neighbour
    76.be on time

  • Arzelia

    I love your blog, I reposted this section on my blog with a link back to you I hope you dont mind =]

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Thanks for your comment-it would be great if you could share a link so I can check out your post!

  • http://www.threebysea.com Nicole : Three By Sea

    77. Tell a joke 78. Pay it forward 79. Make & share sangria 80. Frequent local businesses

  • Deysha

    Hi everyone! I’m commenting all the way from Costa Rica! Its amazing how much human contact can feed your spirit and mind! I am a single mom and I have always been afraid to ask for help cause I dont want people to feel sorry for me, but this year I have learned that I cant do it all and that I do need to share my loads…! This article spoke so close to my heart u have no idea! sniff! Love you all wherever u are!

    • http://ohmyhandmade.com/members/ohmyhandmade/ Jessika Hepburn

      Big hugs to you Deysha! You shouldn’t have to do it all alone & I hope you have family and friends you can turn to for support. Thanks for commenting all the way from Costa Rica!

  • http://www.mielledesigns.com Angela

    All I can say is WOW. Thank you so so much Jessika for your candor and words of wisdom. I just said to someone the other day…”Yeah, I did all that cause I have an “S” on my chest”…but I’m dog tired!!! Your post made all the difference and I thank you.