I see more and more the need for me to have more empathy and understanding of others. I find that it is a hard thing to do. I have an easier time understanding you if you think like me, if you have a similar background to me, if you speak my language. The reality is, that no one else comes from the same perspective as I do. I am unique as are you. My husband doesn’t think like me, my daughters don’t think like me, and my sons-in-law are still struggling to figure out how I think. Sometimes I don’t even understand myself!
So, is it any surprise that living in community can sometimes be messy, difficult, and uncomfortable? Recent news both local and national illustrate this point. We see the issues from our own perspective which is arrived at from the information sources we access and from the lens of our education, region, economics, friends, family, and more.
I have been listening to Dan Rather’s book, What Unites Us. A phrase he used caught my attention: “empathy builds community.” I was interested in this idea since, as an organization, The River Center has identified empathy as one of our core values.
It seemed that a good place to start exploring this idea of empathy was to look up the meaning. The American Heritage Dictionary tells us that empathy is “The ability to identify with or understand the perspective, experiences, or motivations of another individual and to comprehend and share another individual’s emotional state.”
How can I identify with another? How can I understand? How can I be empathetic? For me, step one is acknowledging that your perspective, experience and motivations are different than mine and step two is for me to be curious to find out more. Can I ask you questions about your thinking? Can we have a friendly conversation so that I can understand better what you are thinking? Can I lay aside my assumptions and truly listen to what you have to say?
I think of how I see empathy displayed in the staff and volunteers at The River Center. There is an effort at understanding the reality of life of the individuals and families of our community. Not everyone’s family looks the same. Not everyone’s finances are the same. A couple is struggling to connect with their teenager. A new mom is overtired, unsure, and alone. A twenty-something needs their tax return completed and doesn’t know where to start. A concerned neighbor calls because they are concerned about the well-being of their elderly friend. We seek to encourage, support, and help families move forward in the best way for them. For each individual and family this looks different, but the goal is the same. To strengthen the individuals and families of our region.
I am talking to myself when I say I want to be more understanding, more empathetic toward others. Perhaps Dan Rather is on to something. Empathy may help us build better community.
No matter who you are, what your place in life, there is something for you at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. Parenting education and support for parents and caregivers, help sorting through personal finances or getting your tax return completed, connection to community resources for yourself, your family or your neighbors. Perhaps you are looking for an opportunity to volunteer? We can help you with that as well. Contact us at 924-6800, www.rivercenter.us.
I am realizing that it is pretty depressing to think about all the things I cannot do/ should not do during this pandemic holiday. It is easy to get down in the dumps bemoaning the holiday gatherings that aren’t happening.
So, I had a little talk with myself the other day. We decided that instead of thinking of all the things I am not doing this holiday, I am going to focus on the things I can do. This decision does force me to put on my creative brain. I am thinking about new ways to connect with family, friends, and the community. When celebrating holidays that are filled with tradition, that can be challenging, to say the least.
So consider yourself challenged. How can you join me in thinking about new, fun and meaningful ways to celebrate? We might even start some new traditions this year!
I received an email early in December asking if I would consider baking cookies to share. Count me in! I love to bake my traditional cookies, but fear the consequences if Dave and I try to consume them all ourselves. What a great idea to bake and share.
Our family met together via Zoom Thanksgiving morning. Six children ages six years to one month, seven adults, in four homes. It was great. Full of chaos for sure. But wonderful to see everyone at the same time. I am hoping that we can open our family gifts together using video chat as well. I have to admit that I really don’t mind the three old grabbing the phone and giving me the tour of the floor. What joy to hold Gramma in your hand and hear her voice and laughter! More laughter- that is one of my goals.
Many folks are taking this time to reconnect with friends from the distant past. It is amazing who you can find searching the world-wide web. This just might be the year for a phone call or a note to catch up. I haven’t sent out Christmas cards in years. Too busy I say. But I might send a few this year. They might be a little late. But I am thinking this is a good year for connecting with loved ones through whatever means I can manage.
Our communities are getting creative as well. Downtown Peterborough featured Santa in a snow globe during the first weekend of December. An out-of-the-box (so to speak) solution to bring Santa and children together. The Children and the Arts committee created a wonderland of lit lanterns. Santa greeted big and little folks in Jaffrey in the snowstorm.
Instead of our annual staff and board holiday gathering, The River Center staff are having a make- your-own center piece workshop via Zoom. We will have a fun time working on our project together and have something beautiful for our homes in the end. And yes, there will be plenty of laughter!
And I want to mention all those behind the scenes folks who quietly and generously buy gifts for those who need a little holiday boost this year and every year. They shop for specific requests, bring wrapping paper and bows, add little extras to give a smile, provide grocery cards to help with festive foods, and through their generosity bring joy to many homes in our community. Thank you to Tina Kriebel who coordinates this effort each year on behalf of The River Center and all the volunteers who she calls on to make it happen.
If the holidays have got you down and you are wondering how to deal all things that are not happening this year, please join Jill Morgan on the topic of Building Holiday Resilience on Tuesday, December 22, 7:00-8:00 PM via Zoom. To register and receive the link for this program, go to www.rivercenter.us Virtual Programs.
From all of us at The River Center Family and Community Resource Center, we wish you a joyous holiday!
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center
Each day we lose more daylight hours and the temperature is on a steady decline. The COVID numbers are rising as are our fuel bills. We look at the calendar and wonder what the holidays will look like this year? Will we be able to see Uncle Charlie or cuddle the new baby?
I am determined to be grateful once again. Let me tell why I am grateful and encouraged. Let me tell you about bulbs and babies and other amazing things.
Grateful for the Important Milestones
Let me tell you about The River Center. Some of you know that ten years ago, the Boards of two organizations, The Family Center of Greater Peterborough and The River Center Community Resource Center, decided to merge and become The River Center Family and Community Resource Center. For a decade this organization has been focused on strengthening the individuals and families of this region.
The members of our Advisory Council were asked how they first become acquainted with The River Center. Some told of being young parents in the 1990’s and attending parenting classes with Bonnie Harris at the Parent Guidance Center. Others told of connecting with parents through The Family Center. Others had stories of Families and Communities Together. All these organizations are part of the history of The River Center. Stretching beyond these ten years, the mission of supporting parents in our region has effected many parents, grandparents, caregivers for three decades. I am grateful to Bonnie Harris for having the inspiration, the knowledge, and the drive to create a parenting resource for all parents and caregivers back in 1990. And I am grateful that Bonnie is still facilitating parenting classes and supporting parents through The River Center, her column in the Monadnock Ledger Transcript, her podcast, and Connective Parenting.
Grateful for the People that Make It Happen
I am grateful for the staff of The River Center. For Shannon, Nisa, Sue, Nicole, Kelli, Mackenzie, Mandy, and Bonnie. These dedicated and talented women make the programs and services of The River Center happen. Parenting classes, groups for little ones, one on one parenting support, kinship support, babysitting classes, groups for teens, money coaching, tax preparation, referral to needed resources, crafts for kids. They have accepted the challenges of COVID and adapted these programs and services to continue to serve and support families and individuals. Drive through taxes, Zoom groups, socially distanced meet-ups in the park, video chats, meeting over the phone, film discussions via Zoom. The response to the challenges of COVID have always been how do we do this, never that we can’t do this.
I am grateful for the Board of The River Center. Steve, Laura, Mandy, Amy, Sue, Kristen, Paddy and Doug. They share their expertise, their wisdom, and take their responsibility for this organization seriously. They are supportive and engaged and a pleasure to work for and with. Thank you all for your committed volunteer work on behalf of staff, volunteers and participants of The River Center.
Grateful for YOU
I am grateful for the spring bulbs my husband planted this fall. I am grateful for my new granddaughter and look forward to the time when I will be able to hold her. I am grateful for internet service (!!). I am grateful for this community’s support of The River Center. Your financial support of The River Center enables us to support our community. Thank you!
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director, The River Center Family and Community Resource Center