Lean into community to find resilience

Frederick Riley, Weave’s Executive Director, had the odds stacked against him as a kid. “Our family lived well below the federal poverty line. We were often short on food. The power went out regularly because bills weren’t paid. We were awakened too many times to remember by heavy knocking on the door and a court employee yelling ‘Eviction Notice!’,” he wrote in an essay for the American Institute of Boys and Men. 

“Research shows clearly that kids who grow up in poverty and harsh neighborhoods are more likely to end up dead, in jail, or trapped in intergenerational poverty. And yet my brother and I have thrived… Why did we succeed instead of getting buried? The short answer for me is: our mother. The slightly longer answer is: our mother, three Black men, and a caring community.”

“We didn’t have much growing up in Saginaw, Michigan. But we had community, where folks cared for each other. It included family and friends, women as well as men. When food was scarce at our table, family and neighbors shared what they had.” And while he didn’t meet his father until he was 11, he had male role models in his elementary school principal, his Boy Scouts troop leader, and his pastor. “I looked up to these men. It wasn’t clothing or money or a nice house that made them important. They were people with high standards, strict morals, strong aspirations, kindness, and a passion for serving others.”
As we move through life, our support networks change; sometimes they expand, at other times, they take new shapes. And as we get busy or shoulder more responsibilities, it can become challenging to recognize the people in our lives who support us, who help us maintain our resilience in the face of life’s challenges. When we lose sight of our caring community, we can start to feel lonely or burnt out as weavers.   

Rajiv Mehta, an aerospace engineer and Weave speaker, wanted to apply his science background to understand how people can better identify and tap into these changing support networks to create more caring communities. Through his nonprofit Atlas of Care, he has guided people, from corporate executives and health professionals to military commanders and social activists, to identify their care ecosystem with an Atlas CareMap.

Sample of a CareMap, courtesy Atlas of Care

The idea is simple: You walk through a set of reflective exercises so you can visualize the people you care for and those who care for you. For many, the map is a revelation, letting us see the truth about what we give and get from everyone around us. It’s the first step in making changes that help us live, benefit from support, and care more intentionally. 

Mehta has turned his workshop into a new course for the Weave Learning Center called Atlas CareMapping. The course is free and self-paced.

If you’d like to read Frederick Riley’s full essay on what it takes to help young men of color thrive, you’ll find it here on the American Institute of Boys and Men’s website

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