The other day, I stumbled upon a fascinating article called, "An End to Self-Care" by B. Loewe. In it, Loewe claims that he "wants to see an end to self-care... and instead birth a newer discussion of community care." Throughout the article, Loewe explains that rather than seeing self-care as an individual responsibility, which often ends up being a privilege for those who have time for yoga, therapy, and other methods of self-care, we need to see care as a community responsibility, as a system that we build not just to take care of ourselves, but to take care of each other.
Throughout the article, Loewe poses many questions about communities of care but he gives few examples of what communities of care might actually look like. He acknowledges that those engaged in social movements and social justice work need more than "gentle reforms," that they need some sort of "fundamental transformation that our spirits crave." But how this transformation might come about or what this transformation would look like is left to our imaginations. One of the keys, though he doesn't use this word, seems to be hope. Hope and a vision for a better world. As Loewe puts it: "If we can see a better world just over the horizon, like a marathon runner nearing a finish line, we can find endless wells to draw upon as we work to usher it in."
In reading this article, I couldn't help but think about the Center for Civic Reflection. From my perspective, a huge part of civic reflection is helping to build exactly what Loewe discusses in his article: a community of care. I think about our work with teachers, for example, and the space we create through our workshops and community discussions for educators to come together, connect with one another, share thoughts and laughter, and refuel each other for the work ahead. I think about our work with hospice and palliative care teams -- doctors, nurses, social workers, chaplains. How we receive feedback on our programs like this quote from a chaplain working with patients on hospice: "I feel like I'm on the receiving end of care in the reflective reading [program]. That it's time for me. That I'm not functioning as a chaplain in that time, that I’m functioning as a human being who needs support and needs time to reflect on my work. And needs time to hear what other people have to say and take that in and see how my perspective might be changed... how I might be strengthened to keep doing what I’m doing." Isn't that what a community of care is all about? Not counting on ourselves or our yoga instructors to reenergize us and heal us and prepare us for the work ahead, but instead creating a space where people can derive that energy, that care from one another?
Near the end of the article, Loewe writes: "Capital's vision for our lives is one where we are alienated from our work and from each other. Where non-profit jobs mirror for-profit jobs and both end in take-out and television... replacing the television in that cycle with yoga or bodywork does not address the alienation at the core of it. The change comes when we begin to build communities of care."
I hope, in the coming years, that many more people have the opportunity to experience the communities of care that I have felt a part of when participating in civic reflection. That we see civic reflection as a way to become less alienated from our work and each other, and more committed to building and sustaining communities of care. Perhaps most importantly, I hope that we come to value these communities and see them not as superfluous or a privilege that we just don't have time for (like self-care is often thought of today), but as something that is essential to what we do, who we are, and how we carry on.