By: Tacy Lambiase
In 2021, let’s commit to investing and caring for ourselves and our communities.
For many of us, it’s a ritual. When a new year starts, we start to analyze the previous one. What do we wish we could have changed? How can we make sure that we’re somehow better, healthier, prettier, or wealthier in the year to come? Enter: The New Year’s resolution.
While well-intentioned, many resolutions inevitably fail within weeks or months, leading to frustration and disappointment (who knew it would be so hard to start working out five days per week?). But what if there was a way to make resolutions that make us feel good and do good for others in the process?
Here’s what I’d like to propose: Instead of making a typical New Year’s resolution, let’s all commit to participating in some form of community care this year.
Community care means exactly what it sounds like: it’s “people committed to leveraging their privilege to be there for one another,” as community organizer and researcher Nakita Valerio describes it. It can involve anything from making dinner for a sick neighbor to participating in a community-led protest.
While the concept of community care is nothing new, I think many of us would agree that it’s sorely needed. As our greater DC community continues to face the impacts of a pandemic, high unemployment, ongoing racial and social injustice, white supremacy, and climate change, it’s more important than ever for us to foster a culture of care within our own homes, our workplaces, and our neighborhoods.
If you’re ready to commit to community care, here are a few action items to get you started.
Care for Yourself
You have something amazing to offer to someone else, whether that’s your time, skills, perspective, or passion. Take time to reflect and explore the social change role that you can best play to support the needs of your community.
Community care doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t also practice self-care: it’s hard to support others when your own needs are not being met.Get into the habit of listening to your body and responding accordingly. Maybe that looks like taking a nature walk when you feel stressed, scheduling a doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off, or asking a friend to be a listening ear when you need one (community care can be both given and received).
Picking up trash during your daily walk is another form of community care.
Care for Your Community
In response to financial hardships and social isolation stemming from the pandemic, mutual aid networks have popped up across the country to help fill in the gaps. Do you have the ability to deliver groceries to an older neighbor down the street or donate to a local food bank? Daily newsletter 730DC compiled a huge list of local organizations and mutual aid efforts to support.
Think about your neighbors, but also your community of friends, family members, and coworkers: Who could use a phone call, a card in the mail, or a word of encouragement? Brainstorm a simple action that you can take, totally unprompted, to make someone else feel loved and supported.
Care for Our Common Home
Join a local Buy Nothing group and make gifting, sharing, and borrowing the norm in your community. Items that we own but no longer need could find a second life in the hands of a neighbor, helping us to form stronger relationships and reducing unnecessary waste.
You know the needs of your community better than anyone else. Offer your time and expertise to a local environmental organization or committee. You could volunteer with groups like Sierra Club DC or Sustainable DC or offer feedback on proposed policies; Montgomery County, MD is seeking input on its draft climate action plan through February 28.
I’m planning to participate in more acts of community care this year. What about you? Do any of the actions on this list speak to your values or goals? Respond in the comments with your plans; I’d love to hear how you’re promoting a culture of care in your community.
Tacy Lambiase manages communications and outreach for the Office of Sustainability at American University in Washington, DC. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability management from AU’s Kogod School of Business. Tacy enjoys kayaking, reading, and spending time with her husband and her adopted cat, Spanky.