I attended a very informative meeting about mutual aid. It was so inspiring that I wanted to share the concept of it with you- partly because these times are very difficult for so many- and those of us who are weathering the storm of the pandemic well are looking for ways to help those who are not. And here it is holiday giving time and we may be wondering the best way to share our abundance. Another reason I wanted to write about this is because I recognized that many of the concepts yoga teaches us are embeded in the foundation of mutual aid.
What is the difference between mutual aid and charity organizations? Here is an article that will explain it much better than I can - Mutual aid is essential to our survival.
Here are my big take-aways regarding mutual aid:
Many of us are already engaged in mutual aid and may not recognize it. Money raised from the Thanksgiving class fundraiser went to two organizations committed to supporting and uplifitng communities. A few days ago I got a tour of the Open Door community food pantry that the Methodist church just completed. Pastor Peter emphasized that this was a place for ALL to come and take what was there. If you need butter to bake cookies, come to the pantry. If you turned vegan but still had pounds of butter you bought at Costco (personal experience), bring it on by. He wants to make sure there is no THEY and ME involved in this pantry, there is just US. He sent my daughter and me off with a tin of corn bread that I hear was amazing (but unfortunately far from being vegan.)
Tia Ryans, who founded the Northern NJ chapter of All of Us or None, shared at the mutual aid meeting that the cards accompanying the Thanksgiving baskets were presented to the families of incarcerated individuals from the family member that was incarcerated. "With love from Daddy" may have been how the card was signed, not "brought to you by a bunch of well-meaning people you don't know". This emphasized the US in the community, not the THEY and US.
It is worthwhile to ask ourselves if our giving is serving, if what we are doing is empowering, and working towards healing the community as a whole.
All of us or None is seeking people to adopt a family for Christmas. You can choose to donate money, buy gifts or deliver baskets. You can find more information here. Pastor Peter asked me to spread the word about the pantry to all good people. Come and receive something, or drop by and leave something. You can find the pantry behind the Methodist Church on 3rd street in Frenchtown. It is housed in the small building therein the back of the parking lot and you can access it 24 hours a day. You can donate to the church here.
There are many worthy mutual aid programs sprouting up. Grassroots organizations are uplifitng communities the government has overlooked. It is not good news that there are so many communites in need, but it is good news that we can find a way to reach out directly, and that mutual aid organizations are stepping up to bring people together.
All good news that is available these days is worth spreading!