I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.
-- Edward Everett Hale
Yesterday, I posted some reflections on the relationship between economic inequality and toxic stress - the kind of stress that significantly compromises well-being.
I shared my sense that over time, living in a community with economic inequality creates a collective unconscious awareness that such a community is generally indifferent. And this awareness of indifference then contributes to transforming the hardships we experience into toxic stress.
I ended with the question: So how might we respond?
Today's post is a preliminary response to that question.
A lot of efforts in communities, including our community of Sarasota / Sarasota County, focus on addressing hardships.
However, toxic stress is not simply a result of exposure to hardships -- it develops when a person experiences hardships in a hostile or indifferent environment. It is about experiencing threats with no sense that there are others to turn to when coping with the hardships.
So some community efforts focus instead on relationships and the quality of the environment, even in the face of hardships. These efforts are devoted to safeguarding against indifference.
Banyan Sprout is one example. This is an organization that I established in my own neighborhood through collaboration with my neighbors. Banyan Sprout celebrates and promotes the nurturing response of the environment with-and-for kids in the Central-Cocoanut neighborhood of Newtown -- even while hardships of daily life exist. It was formed in response to the tremendous evidence of nurturance being expressed by neighbors of all ages, in the many places and spaces of the neighborhood. Banyan Sprout aims to further cultivate the nurturing capacity of the neighborhood environment, in particular, so that every child has the confidence that there's somebody in the neighborhood to turn to no matter what. We're figuring out together how to become more attuned and responsive as a neighborhood, so that every child acquires the deep belief that they'll be able to cope with whatever comes their way. And once that's true for all of our neighborkids, we're betting it will be true for all of us.
SCOPE's Resident Community Changemakers fellowship is another example. Residents of Sarasota County who want to be effective community builders in their home neighborhood will soon begin this 9-month fellowship. The goals are to generate connections, inspiration and action in their own neighborhoods. With fellow neighbors they will work to explore their shared territory, strengthen relationships, develop communication processes, promote a sense of community, and come together in response to changes occurring in the neighborhood.
Both Banyan Sprout and Resident Community Changemakers focus on how one's own neighborhood is and can be a nurturing rather than indifferent environment, even in the face of hardship, and how it can become even more nurturing through the combined efforts of neighbors.
Now if our hope is to ameliorate toxic stress throughout Sarasota County, for the sake of community-wide well-being, the ultimate question seems to be this:
What will it take for our broader community to become more nurturing - as reflected in, among other things, ever-increasing economic equality throughout our city and county of Sarasota?
Yikes - that's a pretty complex dilemma to explore.
So maybe to begin, it's worth "scaling in" to ask ourselves:
Where in our community do we see neighborhood examples of efforts to be attuned, responsive and nurturing in the face of hardship?
These hyper-local examples of "doing something" might offer some clues to aide us in continued explorations.
Please share any evidence you discover!