Written by Brannavy Jeyasundaram
3 min read
If there was ever a lesson to be gathered from COVID-19 it would be that we are nothing without each other. Our health, safety, and happiness depend on thriving communities. We have seen brilliant examples of community care in the form of food drives and mutual aid fundraisers that have provided relief during an incredibly difficult time. I won’t forget watching chorus’ erupt from the balconies in Turin, Italy during the early days of the pandemic. It made it so clear: We need each other to survive.
Community care can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and that is OK. First, let’s understand the term ‘community’. Communities are built upon a connection or shared experience that brings people together. Traditionally, it’s been thought of as geographically driven; that your neighbourhood is your community. But community can be something totally different. It could be your hockey team, your office, your book club, your activist group, or even your virtual fan club (Beyhive stand up!). Whatever connects you with a group of people who have a shared goal or experience can be your community.
Now, let’s break down ‘care’. Care can take form in a gesture, expression, or symbol of appreciation for another person. I like to show someone I care about them by spontaneously writing them a handwritten letter. My sister who’s not one to be overly expressive with her words sends care through cookies.
When we scale care up to affect a community, we are working to provide an appreciation for a group of people who share a common experience. For example, when the pandemic hit in March I joined a Facebook group called, “CareMongering-TO: TO Community Response to COVID19.” It has the mission of ensuring the most vulnerable people in Toronto have access to basic resources and over the past year, people have exchanged bread recipes, baby clothes, funds, and even offered to provide elders with transportation. It’s a beautiful manifestation of community care inspired by the pandemic.
Frankly, there’s a scientific reason for engaging in community care. People who are isolated have a 50% greater risk of dying early than those with strong social connections. Community care can help people overcome adversity and lead longer, happier lives. Although, this can be a tall order while we’re mandated to stay inside.
An easy way to engage in community care during the pandemic is to learn about your community’s needs. If you know what is going on, then you know who to help, what you can do, and plan ways that you can improve that community. And I don’t mean scrolling through your social media timeline because we all know that never gets us far. Start with your local library or community centre. While many have closed or cautiously reopened their services are continuing. A library in Aurora, Colorado distributes kits of essentials to the elderly and children who wouldn’t be getting their usual meals at school. Gosh, I love librarians.
Right now, we’re all inching to be back together in public again. (I never thought I’d miss a crowded bus.) Until then, it’s possible to evoke feelings of collectivity and joy by participating in acts of community care. For a comprehensive list of mutual aid efforts across the US click here. And no effort is too small, put a funny meme in the group chat, call an elderly relative, or even just let a friend know you’re thinking of them. Even wearing a mask is an act of community care.
Which acts of community care have inspired you this past year?