The Healing Power of Community

Selfie of the author (Asian American woman in a grey t-shirt) with a friend (blond white woman in grey dress) Selfie of the author (Asian American woman in Black t-shirt with #AsianAmAF) and friend (Asian American woman in an off-white sweater)

I have always believed in the power of community.

But this week, I have felt the power of community.

I have reveled in the joy of community, in the connection and healing of community.

I have challenged myself to trust in community.

This week, after what has felt like 16 months of pure isolation, I’ve been out of my house to meet with people three times. (Note: I am still masking and practicing caution, eating in well-ventilated, outdoor spaces, and avoiding large gatherings)

It hasn’t been a year of complete isolation. I’ve been with my family who I love. We’ve gone on take-out foodie adventures and even eaten outdoors at a restaurant. I’ve met 1-2 friends in person before this week. We’ve even had a couple of in-person church services.

But I have not felt the steady stream of connection with people outside of my house in the ways and doses that I have needed until this week.

I am FINALLY feeling like myself again.

Because, of course, I could not find myself until I could find myself in community.

This week, I also started a GoFundMe campaign¬†for my sister’s transition to the US. This was VERY hard for me. While I just recently left my job to transition to my previous institution and a sabbatical, knowing that this would have some financial implications for my family, we are doing so much better than so many others. I am a very careful planner, but we’re also doing okay. I eat some fancy meals and get occasional massages. We are not in dire financial need.

I struggled with whether or not to ask for support from my community, in light of the fact that I haven’t cut out every luxury from my own life, to support my sister. I didn’t want to appear like your donations are funding my family vacation or foodie adventures.

There’s so much internalization of the Asian American ethos of “saving face” that I was raised with that says it’s weak and wrong to take needs or requests for money outside of our family, that we should take care of our own and go with less so that everyone can have enough. And I’m willing to do that.

But, after talking with some friends in my community, I realized that this is not that. Yes, of course, I will sacrifice for my sister. We don’t have an extra room and so she’ll be camped out in our living room for the foreseeable future until she feels ready to have her own place. It will take time, money and energy to help her transition to the states, get medical insurance, bank accounts, strengthen her English, figure out with her what she’d like to do next at the pace that she wants to move, support her trauma recovery and sadness at being away from friends and the family she grew up with.

Asking for transition funds for her is truly asking for transition funds FOR HER from community that loves me and, by extension, wants her to feel welcome in this country which is new to her. To support her in feeling like this is one less thing she has to consider as she comes to this country. I’m supporting that transition and her, but these are tangible ways for people who have been on the journey with us to show their support.

And my community has responded, and their community has responded, in ways far beyond what I could have ever imagined. They trust me (even if GoFundMe doesn’t–insert eye roll here) and want my sister to have the best start she can here. It has reminded me that sometimes community isn’t about waiting until you are in dire need, but allowing people to support and hold you up so that you don’t get into dire need.

I am still (un)learning that community care isn’t selfish. I am still learning to trust that people are choosing to donate or share or give because they love me or us, not because they have expectations or are waiting to judge my every move. I am still learning that it is okay to live fully and give wholeheartedly and receive sometimes.

It is healing in ways that have been so desperately needed.

So I just truly want to say thank you for helping me heal and for helping me see and feel the power of community and for being so incredibly generous, not just in donations, but also in words, acts and prayers for me during this time.

I am so grateful.

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