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February 12, 2013

Self-Care: So Difficult At Times, Yet So Important

One of my visions as co-founder of A CALL TO MEN was that we would be community organizers first and public speakers second. Our organization was built upon this foundation that we do public speaking for the sole purpose of community organizing. I'm both glad and proud to say that while it has not always been easy, we have stayed true to that position.

One of my favorite quotes is from that of community organizer Cesar Chavez: "Those who are willing to sacrifice and be of service have very little difficulty with people. They know what they are all about. People can't help but want to be near them. They help them; they work with them. That's what love is all about. It starts with your heart and radiates out."

Over the years I have come to understand community organizing as a way of life. I have come to understand that those of us who are invested in a just society cannot contain our work within a nine to five schedule. For many of us our passion, dedication and commitment are in play throughout all our wake hours, and sometimes in our dreams. It's difficult to contain when you have a true love for people and the community you serve. I have developed over the years a strong position (like many of you) that the people are  not "clients", they're "my people". In this relationship many of us have earn the right to hold the people accountable when needed, and lift them up when deserving, and share a love for our community that is unconditional.

As an organizer you wear many different hats in the community, teacher, counselor, advisor, negotiator, etc... The role of a community organizer is not a "one size fits all" relationship. Those of us who have demonstrated ourselves to truly be for the people will be called upon by the people. Accountability to the people (which a community  organizer is) does not allow you to determine when and how you will always be there for the community. It's a fluid relationship, today a community member may need you to help negotiate a human service system and tomorrow may need your help in convincing their son to participate in a community program.

While I love this work and know that I am blessed to have the privilege to serve others, I must admit that over the years it has taken a toll on me. Joining cohort 2 of Move to End Violence has re-energized my spirit and helped me to be a little more centered and self-focused, I will also admit that this has not always been one of my strong points.

While I have never been much of a "Kumbaya kind of guy", I am learning the importance of embracing self-care. Truth be told, I want to be around doing this work for years to come. Within the work of A CALL TO MEN one of the services we provide is technical assistance to organizations looking to develop sustainable efforts toward preventing violence against women and girls. When you think about it, self-care is also an effort in personal sustainability.  Let’s tell another truth, self-care is not selfish; from an organizational perspective self-care will result in higher efficiency and productivity. Thank you Move to End Violence for helping me to put what is such a simple concept (but so difficult at times to do) as self-care into practice.

Art by lizar_tistry