Deciding you want to heal your community after a collective trauma is a beautiful thing. At the same time, it can be intimidating. Communities are large and it can be difficult knowing where to start.
One way you can focus your efforts is by working with individual organizations, one at a time, in an attempt to jumpstart the healing process. Join us as we explain a bit more about this approach and why it can be effective.
You Can’t Heal Your Community Alone
Collective trauma tends to be more complex than individual trauma. For a community to be traumatized, rather than individuals in it, it often requires deep, systemic issues to have taken root.
Healing this sort of communal trauma requires communal care. You, as an individual, don’t have the power and voice to reach everyone. The good news is that you don’t need to.
If you instead focus your efforts on organizations within the community, you can use them to amplify a message of healing far beyond what can be accomplished alone.
This tends to be the approach the most effective activists take. By changing the hearts and minds of key members of an organization, they can in turn help do the same with others in the community.
Over time, this builds momentum. One of the strange parts of change is it often comes in many small (though important steps) over years then suddenly a breaking point is hit. Laws may change or whole organizations may make dramatic shifts in policy.
Where to Begin
When it comes to community trauma, the first thing you should try and do is figure out the specifics of the community’s trauma.
In recent years, a spotlight has been shone on community’s suffering from racism and other forms of bigotry but this isn’t the only potential source of trauma. In essence, you need to determine what is wrong before you can help.
From there, figure out the organization’s key to combatting that trauma. Often this is going to be some combination of charity groups, healthcare workers, and law enforcement.
It might also be a good idea to note which organizations will be the easiest to help out with, which may be the most open to talking to you, and which ones may present a challenge to the healing process.
While it’s important to appreciate anyone doing good work at these organizations, you will want to figure out who their leaders are. These are the people who can often help most with the healing process on an organizational level.
Dealing with Opposition
One thing to keep in mind is there may be groups on your list that are problems; fair or not, the community may be hostile towards them and they to the community.
The trick is to approach these organizations without too many preconceived notions. Even if their behavior has angered you, it is often more fruitful to approach seeking to create a dialogue and calmly exchange ideas.
Sometimes this may require immense patience but remember that the organization you’re dealing with may also have its own preconceived notions about you and what you represent. Lashing out might confirm those fears.
Try to make it clear you seek healing and think they can be a genuine help in that process. Explain to them how they can help change the community to be a better, more loving place and you may start to change minds.
Anger has a place in the healing process at times but it is a tool you must be very careful with. Anger can shut down dialogue which makes it much harder to get certain changes to occur within a community.
Keeping Up the Good Fight
On the other end of the spectrum, it can be a good idea to acknowledge the achievements and accomplishments of organizations you think have worked hard to make positive change in your community.
Small gifts, presentations, and even just a nice verbal expression of their value to you and the community can do a great deal of good. It makes members of an organization feel seen and like their work matters.
It may sound simple but a good deal of helping a community heal is about trying to encourage the good and discourage the bad. Positive reinforcement can make a real impact on what behaviors organizations keep up with.
By encouraging organizations you think are doing good, or even good behavior in organizations you have issues with, you also encourage them to do more in a similar vein.
This goes even further if you manage to collect big donations or gather a group of volunteers to help out organizations you think could use the help.
Moreover, this type of behavior helps make organizations more visible. This can not only help them spread your message but other important messages they may have too.
Healing a Community Takes Numbers
If you want to heal your community, remember not to go it alone. Build up support for your message of healing by gathering leaders and big names and helping to unify them in a message of love.
This isn’t easy but it’s possible. Deep wounds can heal if the right people put in the effort and work together towards a better tomorrow.
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