How the Right Community might just Save your Life

“The key to the happy life, it seems, is […] sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.” — Paul Bloom

I had to think before I wrote this because the story is quite personal. But, in the end, I decided to share it because the message was so powerful I remember it to this day.

This picture is one of mine. Taken from a volunteer trip to South Africa 10 years ago.

The women pictured here both live on the outskirts of Soweto in the Gauteng province. You may have heard of it and, if you haven’t, let’s just say it has an incredibly rich and rocky history.

The sad fact is, I have no idea if these women are still alive. They, as so many I met in SA at the time, were both HIV positive. Not that they let that stop them.

When I met these ladies, they were about to head out for their second water trip of the day (those are water buckets on their heads).

You see, there was no running water in their village. Nor did they have any electricity, I might add. It certainly made me appreciate the comforts we take for granted!

By this point, the sun was sweltering and I could already see other members of the village starting to retreat into their huts for shelter. It made me wonder, why hadn’t they gotten their water earlier? Surely, they must’ve known this would be a bad time to go for water?

When I asked them, the ladies told me they didn’t need any water themselves, they’d already stocked up before the sun got hot (the lady in blue got up at 5am to get hers — she had 5 kids and her mother living with her in a tiny shack), but they were off out again anyway.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because our friend is sick.”

“Water is life, and clean water means health.” — Audrey Hepburn

It was as simple as that. They had learned their friend was too ill to go and collect the water she needed to cook, clean and care for her family so they were going to do it for her.

The trip to the well was an 8-mile round trip, mostly up a difficult, rocky, hill with no shade. It was 38 degrees centigrade that day.

But still, they went.

And they were smiling.

Their friend didn’t ask.

They just went.

Because that’s what friends do.

In addition, the lady in blue had saved some of her meal from the night before and was going to take it round to save her friend having to cook in her weakened state.

The lady in white was going to do her laundry.

How would they find time for their own families? How would they fit in their own chores?

“We’ll manage,” they said. “If we don’t, she won’t get any better.”

I was in awe.

These pure acts of kindness, regardless of consequence or their own circumstances, made me think — this is what community means.

Helping each other without having to be asked. Showing each other we’re there, even when it’s difficult. Even when we have a lot on our own plates.

As writers, we’re so often overwhelmed that we forget there are a whole host of others just like us waiting to lend a hand. To help. To talk.

But where do we find them?

Don’t worry, I have 3 great ways to get you started:

1 — Local Groups

You’d be amazed how many local writing groups are in your area. You’ll find them on Facebook, Meetup or even just pop it into a Google search.

2 — Online

The obvious choice. If you’re in a remote area or not into the face-to-face thing, there are literally hundreds of writing groups online. You can search for them at your leisure and find one that exactly matches your needs, tastes and even time zone!

3 — Conferences

A great place to meet new writers! You’ll find all sorts of writers at conferences. Some conferences are even free. You will get the chance to learn new things and meet new people. You may even get the chance to pitch your writing, if you’re so inclined, which is pretty exciting!

But, just in case you can’t find anything in any of those or, in case none of these work and you’re still feeling lost, alone and with no support, I want to extend my own hand. No strings. No anything.

The only way we’ll build our community is by talking to each other and reaching out.

I know from personal experience how hard it can be to connect with like-minded people which is why I’m making the first step. But I promise, there’s a warm, caring and fun community right at your fingertips.

You just have to reach out and take it by the hand.

And, you never know, it might just save your life.

“True success is intrinsic… It’s love. It’s kindness. It’s community.” — Tom Shadyac

Until next time,

Helen

One last thing…

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