Written By Genee Francis

Building Resiliency through Community

Psychology Today defines resilience as “the ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”

At WinShape Homes, we serve children who come from failing home environments and feel like they have been knocked down by life. Resilience is transactional and is activated by the reciprocal relationship between a person and their environment. We have the opportunity to partner alongside them in their journey to create a community that is safe, caring, empowering, and filled with the love of Christ.

Britannica defines community as “an interacting group of various species in a common location.” The variation between the members of the human species is what makes our world such a beautiful and diverse place. At WinShape Homes, we create communities for a diverse group of children that represent many different cultures and backgrounds. Our homes are reflective of Britannica’s definition of community, and the interactions that take place are vital in the lives of the trauma-impacted children that we serve.

Building resiliency can be compared to the process of building a muscle. It takes time and intentionality. The American Psychological Association designates four core components to growing resiliency that includes connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning. Studies have shown that intentionally including these four components in the building of communities can empower one to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences.

Community is both a feeling and a set of relationships among people. People form and maintain communities to meet common needs.

Members of a community have a sense of trust, belonging, safety, and caring for each other. They have an individual and collective sense that they can influence their environments and each other. As we strive to nurture communities that grow resiliency for the complex trauma survivors that we serve, creating authentic spaces that breed connection, wellness, healthy thinking and meaning is key.

While striving to produce effective coping and adaptation, keep in mind the following five benefits:

  1. Community is fun. Community should not feel forced or burdensome. Foster an environment that is lively and authentic in nature. Evoking positive emotions has adaptive significance and guides coping behavior.
  2. Community encourages fellowship. Connection and collaboration that stems from having healthy and positive relationships creates a feeling of safety and empowerment. Active participation in civic groups, faith-based communities, or other local organizations provides social support and can help salvage hope. Romans 12:4-5 admonishes us that we are better together than we are alone. Helping our children to make connections with others assists in building empathy and growing their support system.
  3. Community fosters encouragement. A strong community lifts each other up, learns from one another, and is supportive to the needs of others. Community serves as a reminder that we are not alone on this journey.
  4. Community is life-giving. When we grow in our relationships with others, we are growing in relationship with Christ. Engaging in healthy and positive relationships can positively model how to care for self, love self as well as others, and empower change.
  5. Community is a gift from God. It is God’s desire for us to dwell in fellowship with others, and it is essential to following Christ.

Hebrews 10:24-25 provides a description of community that reads, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

God did not intend for Christians to live out their faith alone. God encouraged community. Jesus brings together men, women and children from all walks of life so that we do not have to go through life alone. Hebrews 10:24-25 is not about assembling at a church building. It is, however, a reminder to believers to live a life that aims to consider others through exhortation and fellowship.

Get to know the children that we serve, study them, learn their stories, and assess their needs.  The ultimate goal is to stimulate them toward love and good deeds through encouragement and belonging. Our faith and hope in Christ should be apparent in the context of our communities.

The presence of hope in Christ is the light and indicator that we can be trusted, safe, and collaborative in our care. While the children in our homes may not be able to control all of life’s circumstances, they can grow in resilience and manage with the support of loved ones and trusted professionals… through community.