|Photo by Dan Meyers.|
I grew up going to church. There is a lot of baggage that comes attached to that, but one of the good things is that church people tend to help each other out.
Sure, you might not think the prayer chain is actually helping anyone, but what about the meal train? What about the collection of cash to buy a grocery store gift card for someone who is struggling? What about the group descending on someone's house and cleaning every inch of it? What about the free clothing closets?
That's what I thought of when I read Heather Dockray's article "Self-Care Isn't Enough. We Need Community Care to Thrive", and I highly recommend that you check it out, too.
It's a fantastic piece on the importance of deep friendship and community - the kind that goes out of its way to show up for each other and actually do things to help one another out.
One thing she doesn't hit on, however, is that there are two sides to the kind of community she describes: the ability to both give and receive help.
This was a vital part of what I experienced in church. Maybe it's because pride is considered a sin, but people would generally be more worried about meeting someone's need than making sure they didn't get embarrassed that they had a need in the first place. We could be discreet, sure, but we wouldn't prioritize someone's pride over helping them.
Those people would, in turn, accept the help that was offered without making a big show of resistance or pretending they didn't need it.
This is a stark contrast to my experience of trying to give practical help to friends in other parts of my life. The song and dance of trying to provide real assistance without anyone feeling like "charity" has meant that, often, the help just doesn't come.
Is that really better? To struggle alone, only accepting gestures of goodwill from your friends but no actual help?
Of course, it makes sense: in church-land, the teachings explicitly state that we are not meant to be self-sufficient, spiritually or otherwise. In the rest of life, the teaching is flipped so hard that it is offensive to imply someone might need a little help taking care of themselves once in a while.
This philosophy is great when it comes to developing economic engines for a capitalist society. It's not so great for the development of a community. I guess the question now is, what do we want to prioritize?
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