A community Comes Full Circle
By: Judy Nagy
No person feels more alone than when they are hit full-force with a sudden crisis: illness, death of a loved one, a divorce, or financial ruin can cause unbearable suffering. A generation or two ago, when families were faced with difficulties, they could turn to the extended family for support. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters were often comfortingly close and could provide support for their own. But the world has changed. Families are spread across the globe; not down the street. Communication is digital; not around a kitchen table. Neighbors wave to each other as they head out to work; but they often don’t know each others’ names. We have become busy, fast-paced, independent of our community. But, when a crisis drops a brick wall smack in front of our face, we have no choice but to come to a dead halt. We have no choice but to admit that we need help to climb that wall.
Judy will be hosting a workshop at the international Awakening Festival, June 18, 2011:
The Circle of Friends story was born in Hudson and St. Lazare when a woman in our book club was facing her own insurmountable brick wall: her beloved husband, and father of her two young boys, was in the final stages of mesothelioma, a deadly cancer of the lining of the lungs. The women in the book club banded together to help her with meals and childcare for her boys as she travelled back and forth to the hospital to be by her husband’s side. As the disease progressed, the Circle grew.
First, we had 6 women. Then, through word or mouth, cascading emails and community networking, there were 12, then 60 – all within three days!
A project management structure, database management and email, social media and business skills were put into place, transforming the Circle of Friends from a group of well-meaning moms to an efficient and organized group fueled by generosity and love.
Three to four months worth of home-cooked meals appeared as if by magic; love and support baked into the lasagnas and shepherd’s pies. School lunches for the boys were hand delivered the night before. All forms of help and compassion were made available to the family in their time of need. The community sent love and positive energy their way. When their beloved husband and father passed away, the Circle of Friends helped with the funeral and reception.
Today we are composed of over 130 families in the Hudson and St. Lazare area. We have helped a mother of four suffering from a brain tumour; a woman who lost her husband to illness, a family who made the excruciating decision to disconnect their daughter from life support; the family of a 2-year old boy with a malignant brain tumour…all neighborhood families facing their own brick walls. But with the strong and willing shoulders of their neighbors and friends, the wall became surmountable and open arms were readily available to catch them on the other side.
But there is more to the Circle of Friends then taking care of basic necessities, though that is our foundation. There is a spiritual moment that is undeniable. The moment takes place when the family in need, a grieving wife, a worried father, a sick yet fiercely proud individual, opens their lives to the community and accepts our help. This is a moment that allows the community to become part of the human experience and take part in the healing joy of giving, of helping, of doing something… There have also been moments of profound creativity through compassion where gifts born of empathy have helped families in need on their journey toward healing. For two little boys dealing with their father’s death, a “Basket of Hugs” was filled to overflowing with stuffed animals during the funeral service as a touching symbol of their friends’ comfort. A group of chanters was brought in to sing to a dying young woman bringing her peace and beauty. And always, the first person to help a new family in crisis, is the one that was helped before; compassion comes full circle.
The Circle of Friends is a simple idea: friends helping friends by providing meals, childcare, home help, transport, and a compassionate heart when a crisis occurs in the neighborhood. It is a recreation of the comfort network that is missing from our lives. It is a banding together of families to help their own – the community becomes, in essence, one big family.