Building each other up: Why we need community
Over the years I have been involved in a wide range of communities, from school to university, Guiding/Scouting Movements, church, and sports (ha, that was a while ago!). And while they all needed participants to work on building a sense of community, I think this one – the hypermobility community NEEDS it the most. Not because we don’t have it, or because we’re bad at it, but because the benefits of community are so substantial. We need the benefits.SaveSave SaveSave
What are the benefits of community?There are so many, but these are the main ones.
SupportIn counselling circles, there is a concept called “mutual aid”… and I think it describes the Hypermobility Connect online community perfectly. Mutual aid is about helping each other. As opposed to a support group where people feel they can go to receive support from a group or the group leader, mutual aid is about both giving and receiving help. It’s about helping others as much as being helped. There is something really powerful about mutual aid, because in helping others, we actually grow, develop and help ourselves. It is a beautiful process. To help others, we need to think and see beyond ourselves; we need to be able to empathise with others; we need to be able to apply what we know to other people’s situations. And in doing so, we learn more about ourselves and others. We don’t go into a mutual aid situation expecting to have our giving immediately repaid by the giving of another; we go into it knowing that if we give, we will eventually receive, and sometimes, the person we might be receiving from could be ourselves.
Mutual UnderstandingWith mutual aid and the bringing together of people with similar experiences, we find mutual understanding. By that I mean, Jane understands that you’re in pain, and you understand that Jane is, and while both are in pain and their experiences can be similar, they can also be different, and that’s OK. It means that we understand some of the “unspokens”, and that nothing is really off topic or unspeakable. It means we go to this community expecting empathy, and to give empathy.
BelongingWith support, mutual aid and understanding we begin to feel a sense of belong; that this community is “our” community. Even when it is run or administered or even directed by an organisation (e.g. Scouts or the Cricket Club), it becomes ours because we invest in it. We play a role in it. The same is true for Hypermobility Connect. Just because it’s owned & run by Michelle O’Sullivan, doesn’t mean that it’s not your community… because it is ours. Yours AND mine. I’ve always busted my gut to make sure its inclusive and directed by the wants and needs of active community members (of course, within reason). That sense of belonging is what so many of our community miss, whether that is because of a lack of workplace, living in rural areas, being housebound… whatever it is. Hypermobility Connect is a place for people with hypermobility to belong.
StructureOne thing we don’t think about often is that community also comes with structure. Scouts have scout meetings, camps, badges to earn, hierarchies. Church/religious groups have worship days, bible studies, attending synagogue or a mosque, leaders/elders. Sports clubs have training sessions, matches, rules, uniforms, regulations, coaches & umpires. Communities have structure. Hypermobility Connect is no different. We have very strict rules in order to keep our community safe, helpful, hopeful and healthy. Safe for you, safe for me. We have administrators and moderators. And we have frequent posts to foster discussions and “be community” for each other – we see this the most on #moan Monday’s, which is beautiful to see.
Motivation & EncouragementOne of the big benefits of community is the motivation & encouragement that comes from “being in this together”. Whether it’s belonging to the Scout Troop, Soccer Club or Youth Group, it’s something we do communally. When we do things together, like living with a hypermobility condition, we motivate each other, and we encourage each other – because we belong, we have mutual understanding, and we are prepared to provide mutual aid.
ResourcesAnother thing that communities do well is sharing of resources. Part of the reason I started Hypermobility Connect was to develop resources for people who are trying to navigate the journey of living with hypermobility. The vast majority of what is on Hypermobility Connect is absolutely free content, with no strings attached. There is a small percentage of resources for purchase, for very affordable prices (because I know money is tight). Why can’t I give everything away for free? Because I have a 5.5 year university education, 30 hours of continuing professional development every year and 3 self-funded trips to the USA to learn about hypermobility to help you, to pay off. And because I need to eat, pay bills etc. Hypermobility Connect is one of my jobs. You expect to get paid when you go to work, and so do I. Unfortunately that’s the way this world works! They are the benefits of community that come to my mind. I started this post back in early 2017 and never finished it… and now I know why. This post needed to be written this week – both to remind ME of why we are doing this… and to remind all of you of what you’ve joined in being part of the Hypermobility Connect online community.
Michelle is a Senior Occupational Therapist working solely with adults with hypermobility and related conditions. Michelle is the owner of Hypermobility Connect, an online platform for people with hypermobility to connect with resources, health professionals & each other. Michelle practices OT in her private practice and provides education to health professionals relating to hypermobility conditions.