The Common Need

We’re continuing our conversation about community. Karen has been Aidan’s physical therapist since he was born. Not only has she been central to Aidan’s progress; she has also played an important role in keeping my sanity as I meld parenting with the world of medicine and education. For a decade now Karen and I have talked about doing a writing/speaking project together and we’re finally embarking on that. I’m thrilled to introduce to you someone who has been a life changing part of my community.

We all live and survive in communities of a myriad of sizes and shapes. Communities are where several or many people all share a common, unified goal, often unspoken or informally organized, but felt internally. At times, they are organized around the structures of our job or our family situations, but they can just emerge and blossom when a common need becomes recognized.

I am blessed to be a part of many strong and enduring communities, some of which are short-lived and temporary. Here are two critical communities in my life, for which I have much appreciation for how they function and what they accomplish.

My clan. I married into an amazing family and it has blossomed from the two “founders,” my in-laws, to three generations strong. We can rally around each other with a smooth, synchronous and efficient mechanism to accomplish something, whether it is moving my in-laws from their farm of 20+ years, supporting a family member battling cancer,  a celebration event, or just building a garden fence. Years of love, respect, trust, and practice form these bonds, and I love to see the succeeding generation build its own layer within the family clan, with their own uniqueness.

My team. As a pediatric physical therapist, I have been blessed to enter into the lives of children with disabilities and their families. Some children and families pass quickly through my practice, sometimes due to progress or accomplishment and no longer needing services; others move to a new area, or transition on to other services. Many cycle in and out of my life as they grow, change, and their situations become more diverse. I work on a “pedi team” with skilled occupational, physical, and speech/communication therapists. I cherish the integrated collaboration we have, with our various viewpoints and expertise, all centered on a common goal of helping kids and families be as functional, successful, and independent as possible. I also appreciate a hospital structure and philosophy that realizes the importance of putting children and their potential first, despite fiscal limitations.

Most of all, I appreciate the quieter, less obvious members of our community who treat each person, irregardless of their abilities or situation, with kindness and dignity, and in doing so, they encourage our families and all of us in these works which can seem so daunting and overwhelming sometimes. The “lab ladies” at our front entrance, who cheerily greet our families as they enter the building, and are quick to make an encouraging comment.  They notice the improvements, even the small ones which may take weeks to make themselves apparent, such as holding a head up longer to see a smile, walking  little taller or a little faster or with less help, or driving a power chair straighter. They always notice and comment positively.

Our office support team, which greets everyone with a hearty “hello-good morning -how are you?” no matter what pile of paperwork or phone calls are begging to be done. They are also quick to help a parent juggling babies, kids, diaper bags, and adaptive equipment, and to enforce the “please and thank you” rules which keeps our multigenerational waiting room semi-under control.

The “adult” therapists in our office, who patiently step around our obstacle courses which litter the main gym and hallways, and unfailingly stop by to say hello to the kids who come week after week. And somehow see the positive side of our noises – “doesn’t it sound like they are having lots of fun?”

Without these layers of people as part of our therapy community, we wouldn’t be able to work as effectively and our children and families would find it more challenging to press on week after week. We didn’t enlist, organize, or train them to be a part of our community, but their inner sense of wanting to be a part of what these children and their families are accomplishing drew them in.

Like birds flying in a formation while they adapt to the wind currents and weather, changing out the front bird continually for the mutual good of the group, so healthy and robust communities function.

And I am thankful.

For more on community read about Shasta’s Kickstarter campaign, Talley’s story, Janea’s story and Christine’s story.

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