I’ve been thinking about the importance of leaning in a lot lately. During a Wits law seminar I attended last month, one of the professors highlighted that there is greater need, now more than ever, for a sense of community. She mentioned that all of the largest problems we are facing in our country can only be resolved if we learn to work with and care for one another and this really resonated with me.
When she accepted her Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa said that “if we love, naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, our next door neighbour, in the country we live, in the whole world.” From this we can see that she encouraged others to lean in and be active in sharing love in this world.
Not everyone can charter a flight filled with food to stranded families after flooding but all of us can do something closer to home. Doing nothing is easy but actively leaning in is so much more enriching, both in your life and the lives of others. Building communities is so important for so many reasons. Not only does it mean a social network but it also means a network that will pull together in times of crisis when we need each other more than ever.
Since becoming a mom, I’ve learnt how much a little support goes a very long way and I decided that I needed to lean in and find a sense of community with other moms. I’ve often been too reserved to actively go out and meet people but this time I knew I needed that to change. I started reaching out to other moms I knew and met along the way and it’s been the loveliest experience. Building a little network of moms in a similar situation has been so valuable as a support structure and sounding board for when I’ve had questions, felt lost and overwhelmed but they’ve been there through it all and celebrate my little one’s growth. There is strength in our community of moms and it’s been so comforting and reassuring to know that we can swop stories and be completely honest with one another. It’s been the most amazing thing to have a group of people as invested in your child as they are in theirs. So often I hear of women that met when their children were babies and that the bond they created by leaning into one another has allowed them to grow a lifelong friendship as their children have grown up. That type of network is such a beautiful one. I hope my community of mom friends lasts an eternity. I also know that building a network of moms means building a network of friends for Teddy too.
The other way I’ve started leaning in is by starting a book exchange. Reading is a very introverted activity but when you pull together a whole bunch of introverts, you’ll be surprised what a social community they can be. I invited a league of inspiring women that, for the most part, have not met each other and we are all meeting monthly for an afternoon of chatter under the trees and bond over our love for books. Books might be our reason for meeting but the community that comes with the network of these phenomenal women is incredibly valuable. Hopefully everyone’s individual successes encourage the group to continue forging their own path as inspiring individuals. It’s so wonderful to belong to something, even something as simple as a book club.
I’ve also learnt the importance of leaning in to your workplace. Building relationships within the business is so valuable because, as people become more familiar with you and your process for completing tasks in the most efficient manner, the more work they will refer to you. If something is not working the way you wish it would within your workplace, try so come up with a solution and motivate the reason for change. If you find something that could be improved and make your whole team more efficient, have the confidence to go about proposing your solution rather than letting the status quo continue. If there is a work function happening, try your best to support it. The more involved you are, the better if is for your work life and for your career. No matter where you fit in the hierarchy of your workplace, you’ll be surprised how many people love someone willing to creatively guide them into a better space for everyone.
Love actively. Reach out to your community. See how you can help others. If you have a need for a community, there are definitely others with the same need so start reaching out and see if you can create something of your own. Start a running club, paddle tennis nights, a dinner club, bible study group, etc. I am often scared of feeling rejected but I’ve learnt that people are more willing to join in than you think. It’s something that we’ve probably forgotten during the isolation years, but that time has passed and it’s now time to lean in.
“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results. “