This morning I was listening to a podcast with Sebastian Junger the author of a book called "Tribe". The podcast had me thinking about belonging, community and feeling connected to a greater mission or good. He was speaking about how natural disasters, war and other horrible events have the greatest ability to call on and display the greatest qualities of human beings. He says "human beings are wired for collaboration". He talks about how" if you take an affluent modern society and you collapse it during a crisis like a hurricane or a flood what happens is that these very modern people suddenly are operating in a way that is in keeping with their evolutionary pasts. They are functioning in small interdependent groups, they are being very generous they are putting other people first, these are all survival adaptations but they make people feel very good. And as a result often later after these terrible times have past, people will be very nostalgic about the blitz or the hurricane that hit or the blizzard that put out the power for 4 days. Anything that gets people to cooperate makes people feel good." He goes on to talk about how in modern society many times the middle class doesn't have to rely on their neighbours, or friends for survival so we become more closed off and self reliant which is not incredibly beneficial for our well being. He spoke on something that made so much sense to me and reaffirmed my thoughts about volunteering and celebrating people who are doing beautiful acts of service all the time. We don't have to wait for a natural disaster to help out, to join a community of others helping. The small things we do for others actually have a huge impact on our own mental health and well being. The more separate we are from each other (eyes in phone, hiding behind a screen) the worse off we will actually feel. Human beings need connection to thrive. Ask any midwife, doctor or nurse. Why do newborn babies thrive in NICU when they are cradled and loved and held? We all need that connection. The belonging. We need the love.
Last week one of the wonderful moms in my daughters little group of friends organized our girls (and us) to go help out at the local Food Bank. I had never been in the building despite making donations and being a supporter. I found the experience so incredible. This group of people, working together to create a system where those in need of some sustenance for their families (often with little children in tow) are provided food and goods from this group of people with massive hearts. Our girls were so eager to help out, excitedly doing whatever task was asked of them. It's in our nature to do good. It makes us feel good. It made us moms who were there helping out feel good too. To be honest it broke my heart a little but was a sobering reminder that there are people, many people right here in our community that are directly benefiting from the generosity of anyone that can help. It is one thing to make a donation, but to be there, looking at the faces of the humans standing there humbly asking for help, or toilet paper, or cans of food. My friends, it is a different kind of experience. So many thoughts went through my mind as we were handing out their pre-made bags for "singles" "couples" "families of 3-5 and 6+". Each bag/box are premade and filled by the volunteers. If they have a child who's birthday it is, you can go to the freezer to hopefully find a birthday cake that might be suitable. So their child may have a birthday cake. I couldn't help but wonder what circumstances put me on one side of the counter, and them on the other. But also in those moments my sense of self was so softened that there was only humans in the room, not them and us. If we could just reach that more, that sense that when you are in crisis if there is someone you can help, you just do it. You just do good, despite beliefs, or status, or colour or religion. You just help each other. I couldn't help but feel like there wasn't a whole lot of difference between any of us. I was just on one side of the counter.
The volunteers who show up weekly, twice a week to do whatever is needed of them, bag the groceries, organize, serve, stock shelves, take out the trash. I love when people just show up. I asked the Food Bank manager Debbie Willis a few questions about the services they provide, and what they are always looking for to help out.
"In November alone, the total clients served were 1925. Families were 51% & 22% of that total were under the age of 18. We are financially supported by the community and a yearly provincial gaming grant. we look for additional grants to aid us in capital projects. We receive approximately 2 tons of produce, dairy & bakery from local grocers weekly & keep 85% for reuse. We recycle remaining unusable products to farmers so not much makes it into landfill (of which we are very proud). We are always needing rice, oatmeal, coffee & toilet paper & tissue. "
I think is important to remember those that are in need of a little or a lot of help. Whatever way you contribute. However you do that, you are not only improving the lives of those you are serving, but you are healing our community one act of kindness at a time. I also absolutely love sharing this side of humanity and service with my children. They need it, and I hope by sharing that with them it will come easily and as second nature to them. They will just be generous, giving and quick to lend a hand from early ages. It is my hope that it will be important to them and they will be strong members of their communities because of it. Not acting spoiled or privileged. Which by many standards, they really are. I am always inspired by the kindness of others, and when I was asked to bring my camera to the food bank to capture a few images of the behind the scenes there, I was of course all in.
I shared the photos with Debbie and she replied "You captured the essence of our volunteers, the comaraderie we share & the joy we have in helping. We like to think “there but for the grace of God go I” and treat our clients with that in mind. We give them a little attention, help as much as we can, and give them our best wishes for future endeavours."
Debbie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a world where you can be anything, be kind.