Reaching out to neighbors, while fostering self growth, all part of healthy package

thought I had my ducks somewhat in a row before I became a mother. Apparently, I don’t even have ducks but a menagerie of birds that can be erratic in their behavior, to say the least. 

I recall hearing, “Having children is both the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done,” from many people before I became a parent. Now that I have a two-and-a-half-year-old, I’m starting to relate to the depths of this simple statement. I don’t know that anybody ever knows what they’re diving into when they become responsible for a child, but I think I’ve signed on to a very big opportunity for self growth. 

While my partner and I are only a couple years into this adventure and don’t know what lies ahead, thus far the most challenging part for me about being a parent is managing my own thoughts, expectations, emotions and self care. Making time to take care of my self always gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. 

Additionally, it can feel uncomfortable to hold the mirror up to myself and look at what’s there. “Wow, did those words really just come out of my mouth?! How can I do that better?” 

Never before have I leaned on, needed and appreciated the supportive relationships in my life to this degree. “It takes a village to raise a child” has taken on a new meaning — not just the direct benefits the village provides to the child, but also how the village supports the caregivers, teachers and role models so that they can be their best for the youth in their lives. 

Paying love forward to the village and the next generation benefits everyone.

My experience as a mom has been complemented by my professional role as the MAPP coordinator. It’s been helpful to learn more about healthy child development and validating to see the scientific research behind mindfulness, compassion and self care. 

Folks, this stuff about love is not just ‘“fluff” but can legitimately improve our health and well-being. What an exciting paradigm shift we’re helping to shape in this community.

MAPP’s present focus for collective action, selected by the community, is to “Increase Family Well-being.”  The most impactful way to do this involves building positive relationships within families and growing their positive social networks. In theory, building relationships doesn’t cost a dime. So why hasn’t this “strategy” gotten more traction?

I had an epiphany about this question after learning about the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program from Paul Rourke in November. In short, through weekly contact with youth in your neighborhood, the goal of this program is to support young people in their development of purpose and self-worth while also building relationships in your neighborhood.

I had some discomfort in thinking about knocking on my neighbors’ doors and engaging them. Simultaneously, I feel grateful for the support I receive as being a part of this community and want to return or “pay forward” the gift. 

It hit me that the answers for the most effective strategies to improve family well-being do not lie in some faraway place, but are right here underneath our noses. Developing relationships with our neighbors pushes against our cultural norms of “minding our own business” and instead rather loudly articulates “I care enough to step out of my comfort zone and acknowledge you.”

To boot, this program does not just require you to reach out to neighbors, but it also fosters your own self growth. Who’s up for this rewarding and life-supporting challenge? If interested in joining the training in the new year, call Paul at 299-4142. While one does not need to join a program to support youth and neighborhood relationships, it is nice to have guidance and a network for sharing.

There are many ways to pass on the gift of love, many of which cost nothing. Building and feeding relationships — even your relationship with yourself — could be your gift that keeps on giving into the new year and beyond. 

Megan Murphy is grateful for the four chickens in her menagerie that occasionally sit in a row on their perch. She aspires to be a Junior Youth neighborhood mentor in the new year while also moving self care higher on her to do list.

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