It is wonderful to announce our second monthly Guest Editor – Kate Duva of Prosocial Power

Kate joins us over this northern hemisphere summer from Chicago, where her busy schedule is starting to slow down to give her some time to breathe and share her work, thoughts and ideas.  This week she brings a discussion on the recognition of grief as a starting point to work towards the community ideals that we strive for.  Please do share your thoughts in the comments section.

I’m stirring from a surprisingly good night’s sleep, hugging my pillow, savoring a tingling in my cells. A dawn breeze ripples through our tent. My daughter’s sleep breath is steady and grounding – up and down, up and down. The violet sky is fading to baby blue, and robins and sparrows spiral around us in titters and chirps. Then comes the roar of motors – early morning commuters hitting the gas on a green light.

We’re camping out in our Chicago backyard, steps away from a four-lane avenue that’s crawling with cars and exhaust for the better part of the day. There are small businesses, and parks with playgrounds, prairie and wetlands along this street, but viewed from inside a car it’s endless concrete, liquor stores, gas stations and fast food chains.

Somewhere nearby, a grandmother is trudging to a daycare where she will unlock the door before six o’clock and spend all day shaping the lives and health of children, freeing their parents to go make her salary several times over. Somewhere a man is braving rats, rot, poison and broken glass to comb the alleys for scrap metal. A person who’s been looking for a job for months, eyes drained from insomniac hours watching two inch wide videos on their phone, is finally drifting to sleep on someone else’s couch. People are already up and working under fluorescent lights, growing, packing and cooking our food, sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets in public buildings, and still not getting paid enough to live. And thousands of working people are hidden inside homes, many of them getting little or no pay and protections – housekeepers, babysitters, sex workers, caregivers.

Relatively speaking, I’m blessed. I live in an intergenerational apartment building, together under one roof with my mother and my daughter. I’m a single mom, but my daughter’s father lives just a mile away. I host intergenerational dance parties, communal cooking gatherings, and feeling and talking circles that I call heartstorms. But, for the most part, I’m your average modern orphan of the earth, cooking alone from ingredients produced by strangers, raising my child largely on my own, hoarding my own joy, guarding my own pain. While I do vital work with families and young children in their homes, paychecks from the miserable state of Illinois are delayed by three months. I juggle random gigs to supplement them, feeling like a storm of fragments, leaving pieces of myself behind as I run around town.

But my belly gives a purr in the dawn light as it digests the three healthy meals that I ate yesterday. The tomatoes and lemon sorrel that are being transformed inside me were grown right here in my amateur garden. I can drink water out of my tap, I feel safe walking down my own street, and I have some time and luxury to lay around and listen to my grief.

Let’s talk about GRIEF. More specifically, collective grief. What makes you sad about this world? What community have you loved and lost? What kind of community have you never had, but wish you did? What was taken from your ancestors that you want back? Let us know in the comments section at the end of this post.

For the next month, I’ll be bringing you stories about people who are piecing together that village feeling by forming intergenerational communities founded on collaboration and mutual aid. But first, I’m taking stock of our losses, our rage, and our grief. As ecologist Joanna Macy says,

“Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief or rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” Joanna Macy

I want to live in a world where I step out every morning on to land that I share with others – land that we belong to, not land that belongs to us – growing and cooking together, shouldering collective burdens and pleasures. Cynics love to argue that communes don’t last, but neither do most marriages, and neither do empires. Fickle, egoistic, ornery, confused and ridiculous as humans can be, we’ve got to trust ourselves to get the work done, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust most of those guys in suits.

I want interdependence woven into our infrastructure. I want a community center on every corner, occupied by people who care for others, to support each other and use the space as they see fit. I want to see prisons shrink as drug offenders get treatment, not sentences, and I dream that transformative justice circles will catch on so that every community can decide for themselves how to judge and heal damage. And I want wealth addiction to be treated as the public health crisis it is. Let’s do interventions on the financial playboys and CEOs who make more money than any one person can possibly spend in a lifetime, send them to rehab and group therapy where they’ll sit in circles in slippers and sweatpants, lifetimes of lost feelings erupting on their poker faces. I want to see more grown men cry. Oppression depends on our self-repression to survive.

That’s a little of my vision. What’s yours? I dare you to share it in the comments below. It’s not easy to dream. We’ve been fed ample doses of cynicism, realism, and expert worship for centuries, but we’ve got to flex our imaginative muscles to survive in these rumbling times.

Over the next month, you’ll be hearing a lot from me – but you’ll also be hearing from people I know and love, from strangers who are no longer strangers because I approached them in the park with a clipboard and a smile, and you’ll be hearing from people who are dreaming deep, taking risks, and doing amazing things to weave networks of support. From moms who occupy their blocks every night to keep kids safe from violence, to nature playgroups that bring immigrant families together to reconnect with the land, to young people who care for elders in intergenerational residences, the world is rich with inspiration and ideas that should catch on. Know a collective you think I should feature? Reach out to [email protected], and let’s talk.

***Note: Images all supplied by Kate Duva***