Unlike community leaders or professional helpers who are in the foreground of a community, natural helpers are part of the background. Their contributions are impossible to measure. Often it is only when they are gone that we can truly see what a crucial role they played in creating an 'abundant community'. In a world that is dominated by stories of violence and destruction, we overlook the millions of tiny kindnesses between family, friends, neighbors and strangers.
There was one exceptional natural helper in Victoria who was a replacement mother, auntie and grandmother to dozens of people and multi-generations. For decades Dorothy Livingston's home served as an informal transition house and meeting place. Her unobtrusive generosity and non-judgmental wisdom was under-appreciated because she made it seem that her way of being was just the normal state of human behaviour.
Of course technology has allowed new helpers to emerge in new places. Small gestures of digital help are different than local in-person help, but they are still significant. For example, look at the twitter timeline of Vancouver singer-songwriter Bif Naked and the website of Bernadette Russell's 366 Days of Kindness project.
But distant online helpers can't actually come over when you are sick, bring you soup and tidy up; they can't help you move, give you a lift, or bring you food. Real life help cannot yet be replaced by digital help, not while we still have physical bodies, eat physical food and need physical shelter.
Learn more about natural community helpers:
- See the work of John McKnight and the ABCD Institute
- Check out John McKnight's book: “Community and its Counterfeits”
- The Story of Toast “More than a café, the shop is a carpentered-together, ingenious mechanism—a specialized tool—designed to keep Carrelli tethered to herself.”
- The Story of Geel "For more than 700 years its inhabitants have taken the mentally ill and disabled into their homes as guests or ‘boarders' ".
One of the aims of My Help Book is to aid natural community helpers and self-advocates --people who find themselves having to be their own helper. By quickly finding known community resources, and learning of unfamiliar resources, it is much more likely that small problems can be addressed before they become urgent crises. My Help Book also serves an educational purpose: it provides information so people can learn what their rights are as citizens, consumers, and workers.