In my previous article, I wrote about family away from family. The people we meet along the way, who go on to grow close to us. Almost as close as family. They are as close as friends, yet in so many ways, they are more than friends. In this article, I would like to suggest four reasons why we should deliberately invest in relations wherever life finds us;
Isolation has been known to cause depression. Depression often targets the lonely; people without a support network. suicide, poor quality of life and misery have been attributed to this state of being.
The void left by family can’t be filled; not by technology and may be, most definitely not by strangers. Yet meeting and letting people into our lives, has a profound way of enriching it all together. They meet some of our physical and emotional needs. They share our joys and sorrows. They can be there for the crucial moments, when we have no one else. Can you imagine spending Christmas, Eid or a special birthday all alone, year in and year out?
As I write this, am reminded of a time last year when we suffered a loss in our family. If it wasn’t for friends (read family) who kept vigil with us, and offered support through the days and months that followed, it would have been the darkest, most hopeless experience of our lives. These people are a living testament, that there is kindness, compassion and empathy all around us. All we have to do is let people in, and that is the tough part.
We are strong women and men, but sometimes we need to feel the touch of another human being. Sometimes, we need to feel the comfort of a hug. Other times, we need to hear a whisper, an affirmation that it is going to be okay. An assurance that am here if you need anything.
- “It Takes A village To Raise A Child”
Away from family, there is unprecedented demand on an individual to be everything to him or herself. There is even an overwhelming pressure on a couple to meet all of each other’s need, and at the same time, be everything to their children.
An entire community needs to play an active role to raise a happy and healthy adult. An adult who has self-efficacy, compassion and kindness and more- values we so admire in people around us. This community begins with our parents. It includes the broader community; aunties, uncles, school, church etc. It most certainly can include the special people we meet along the way, away from family and friends.
There are values and parts of cultures that we can’t simply learn from television, YouTube or read in a book. They have to be lived. Values of kindness and empathy ought to be lived. How do you teach a child that when a friend has suffered a loss, it is imperative to stand vigil with them, if they have never seen you do it? How do you teach a child the concept of hosting one another for dinner, if you have never invited anybody to your house for a meal? How do you teach a child to look out for the elderly woman or vulnerable child in your neighbourhood, if you have never had a knock on your door? The great virtues and values upon which a functional community is built, are not lived in isolation, they are shared community values.
- Child Care Costs
The cost of raising children continues to rise as shown in the media recently. Working people, I believe particularly those living away from their families feel this squeeze much more. Some couples have even shied away from starting a family altogether. The challenges are real and demand lasting solutions.
While investing in strangers might not provide a holistic solution, it most probably can go along way to help. Isn’t family about being there for each other in times of need? Isn’t a friend in need, a friend indeed? It might be just looking after another’s child for an hour or so; to give a couple, time to watch a movie, have a romantic meal and connect with each other. It might include taking turns to work and look after one another’s children or even sharing house help. Whatever form it takes, collectively we can make a difference in each other’s lives by offering a helping hand, because whenever people come together solutions to social challenges are found.
- Social Capital
The demands of day-to-day life might make it rather difficult, if not impossible to save a substantial amount of money. If you come from a struggling family; where your parents have not handed you anything like the most of us, even putting together savings for a deposit to buy your first property might take a life time, if ever.
Relations we make along the way might be the solution; the needed social capital. Am not talking about gifting circles, women financial circles or anything that is dependant on recruitment to make money. Am certainly not talking about the crazy pyramid schemes that we so often hear about, no.
I am talking about collaborative saving and investment partnerships, based on mutual support for one another, built on strong relations and respect. Where people bring themselves, their values, they bring their finances and skills to the pool. Am talking about partnerships, that allow members to save and borrow from a pool if need be without the usual associated costs and restrictions we encounter in banks or other financial institutions. I am most certainly talking about people coming together, leveraging the power of collaboration, saving and undertaking joint ventures-small or big, wherever they choose to. Can you imagine teaming up with another family, then saving towards a deposit to buy first properties for each other or maybe saving up for a first cruise holiday?
To bring this to life, a few years ago we had the privilege of developing a very good relation with a couple. Among the four of us, we had accounting, building, customer service, technology and legal skills to mention but a few. We started saving £200 a month. Years later, we have not only increased our monthly savings substantially, we have also undertaken projects, and achieved what we never could have achieved or dreamed of individually, that is the power of collaboration.
Bringing it all together
Of course there are many more reasons for investing in people. In fact, the aforementioned reasons may not hold any water at all. Regardless of the stage of life you are in, or the place you live, I hope you find value in investing in people and accepting their generosity in return.