The blog this week was written by Jennifer Goodwill, Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. “Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” Brene Brown, Ph.D, Daring Greatly
Social capital, networking, community circles… whatever you call it, connections are an integral part of a meaningful life. Helping individuals with disabilities to build connections with others is an important part of Community Brokering. When we are getting to know an individual participating in brokering, we spend time talking to them about who they know in their community. For some, it is easy to name individuals with whom they are close. But for many individuals, they don’t have connections outside of their immediate family or their service providers. They struggle with loneliness and isolation.
Believing that community connections enrich the lives of individuals, we are intentionally helping individuals expand their network of connections. We support them in building relationships ranging from the typical flow of people all of us encounter in the course of a day, week or month, to our more intimate friendships. We do this by getting to know the individual and talking about their interests and goals and learning about their strengths and skills. From there, we help the individual find places in the community where they may start volunteering, working, or participating in activities. Involvement in community activities leads to opportunities for individuals to meet new people and form new friendships. These new acquaintances and friends serve as bridges to a more meaningful life and create movement toward greater participation in the community. Those who once felt isolated and alone, now have people in the community who know them by name, say “hello” when they pass by each other in a store, or check in on them when they haven’t seen them in a while. It is these little things, our community connections, that make all of the difference between living well and just living.