70 Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

70 Ways to Build Community, Oh My! Handmade

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?

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/man myth is so dangerous to our parenthood and our lives. 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:

We human beings are all fundamentally the same. We all belong to a common broken humanity. We all have wounded, broken hearts. Each one of us needs to feel appreciated and understood; we all need help. 

Jean Vanier, Becoming Human 

 

Isn’t 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 heroes.

My mother was a young, visibly Black, 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 a 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 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 is 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, guilt, or because you want to feel good about yourself, give because you DO feel good about about yourself and giving is it’s own reward. We all deserve to have a village and it is up to us to make it happen.

How are you building community? 

Seventy Ways to Build Community, Save Your Sanity, and Change the World

This post was originally published in 2011 here and continues to be one of the most popular articles in the archives connecting with everyone from new suburban mamas to inner city ministers. As I slowly rediscover how OMHG fits in my life it was time to dust off this old friend for the first post of the year because the best goodness is worth revisiting. I made up an updated list of 70 Ways to Build Community that you can download, print, and share with your own communities by clicking the image above.  Learn the basics of personal community mapping with the 100 Ways To Build Community Mini-Guide available by donation here or if you are a maker in Atlantic Canada connect with the Maritime Makers initiative to build our local community and strengthen our region through cooperation!

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!

  • Cheryl Lamerson

    This is so in line with our philosophy at Lunenburg Community Consignment that I feel an incredible kinship with this post. We build community by recycling the items that we sell – but that is just the instrumental. On the more philosophical and community development side, what we really are about is different forms of partnering to help the community. We work with consignors bringing in their items to sell, with shoppers who find something they need or want at a reasonable price, with volunteers who want a fun activity and to help a charity that they relate to, with the charities, and with many different suppliers who we help to connect to others. One of the essences of community for us, is that there is mutual benefit for all involved – win/win.

    Is the graphic available for download? I would love to post it on our Facebook page, with appropriate credit to you, of course. Is this possible?

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

      Thank you so much for your comment Cheryl! I’d love to be more involved in your project and support the work you do in our community 🙂 You can absolutely download and share this graphic, may it inspire more community building near and far!

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

      Thank you so much for your comment Cheryl! I’d love to be more involved in your project and support the work you do in our community 🙂 You can absolutely download and share this graphic, may it inspire more community building near and far!

  • Diana Encea

    This is a very honest and supportive story! I admire your mother for the way she raised you! You look such a great soul, and so confident. I would like to be like this all the time. I’m on the beginning with my business even if I paint for so many years. ( http://coloursofmyroom.com ) And very often I feel so alone on my struggle. Thank you for your words! I wish you all the best!

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

      Hi Diana, I am sorry to hear you feel so alone – it makes the hard things in life a million times harder. Confidence for me has come from a community who believes in me, I hope that you can find those cheerleaders who remind you how important and fabulous you are regularly!

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

      Hi Diana, I am sorry to hear you feel so alone – it makes the hard things in life a million times harder. Confidence for me has come from a community who believes in me, I hope that you can find those cheerleaders who remind you how important and fabulous you are regularly!

      • Diana Encea

        Hi Jessika, sorry for the late answer. I think I found my balance in my family: my daughter and my husband are my strenght! Thanks God for them! 🙂 And my art….Thank you for all your kind words to me!