Does it really take a village?
For the past six weeks, I’ve been chauffeur, cook, homework whip-cracker, ballet grandma, baseball cheerleader and mixed martial arts manager (if manager means getting Black Belt Girl to and from practices and competitions).
And while I held down the fort with the three American grandchildren, Daughter Summer and SIL Josh were in Uganda dealing with the process of bringing home three brothers.
In their absence, their church community gathered in support. These incredible people completed several house projects—more about those later—and crashed the yard.
They trimmed brush and tree limbs. Pulled weeds. Built a fire pit. Tore down a warped and splintered deck, flipped the wood and built an awesome triple-level tree fort …
… complete with secret trap door and rope ladder.
When Hubby was first diagnosed, he wasn’t interested in sitting around in a circle with other men talking about cancer woes. That’s what he thought a support group looked like.
As time passed, we stumbled upon a program called DEFEAT Cancer. DEFEAT stands for Diet, Exercise, Family, Education, Attitude and Thriving. A monthly educational dinner meeting for survivors and caregivers.
This DEFEAT Cancer community became our support group by default.
Why is it important to get plugged into community? From our experience, here are four critical things community can provide:
1. Connection. Our most valuable assets are people. People who love us unconditionally. Who hold us accountable. Who cheer us on. There’s nothing like a sense of belonging to a group of people who get you. One of my friends is fond of saying this about the cancer community, “It’s a club you don’t want to join, but it has some really great members.”
2. Courage. Because these people have been where you are, they can share their wisdom. They can infuse you with courage, and provide a listening ear. It helps to talk with someone outside your intimate circle of friends and family because too often we try to protect our loved ones from our true concerns and fears. But how valuable to have a safe place to honestly verbalize the things that are troubling you.
3. Social outlet. Some of the folks from our cancer community became our closest friends. These are the people who made up our cancer-kicking hike club; the lovely women who comprised my knitting posse; those with whom we shared time around a campfire high in the mountains every summer. And when we gathered together, our conversations weren’t necessarily around cancer, but about life and future hopes and dreams.
4. Opportunity to give back. Just as your support group can infuse you with courage and wisdom, it provides you with the chance to give back to those who come after you. Hubby always said it gave him a big boost when he encouraged someone else on their cancer journey.
It doesn’t matter so much what you call it – support group, village, extended family; it matters that you get plugged in. Because it’s not healthy to go it alone.
What Hubby and I faced with cancer wasn’t easy. But we had a fabulous network of people surrounding us with love and compassion.
What Josh and Summer have undertaken isn’t going to be easy. They know that.
But they also have a fabulous community of people who have rolled up their sleeves and hammered and repaired. And cleaned and painted. And donated playground equipment and provided grocery gift cards.
All with the intent of welcoming three little brothers from Uganda into their village.