Amber Besaw | Community Matters: Compassion, conversation key to confronting change in Northern Berkshire

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NORTH ADAMS — The year 2017 brought significant changes and challenges to all levels of government and to every social sphere.

In light of this, our communities will be faced with a new landscape that will require us to think differently about the work we do. It is our collective responsibility to find and build opportunities for thoughtful collaboration, resilience, and success so we are ready to take advantage of the fresh perspective change can bring.

Northern Berkshire County is a tight knit network of community agencies, local governments, schools and neighbors who are often linked together by the dedication to find solutions in hard times and committed to tackling the longstanding issues our communities face. To achieve the desired success of stronger communities and sustainability in our efforts, there are key elements needed within our approach.

The first is the act of convening. Acknowledging that no one is interested in attending more meetings, the act of convening is bringing all facets of the community together for a common purpose and shared goals.

North Berkshire has seen the development of several convening groups to tackle issues of homelessness, addiction and recovery, food insecurity, and improving services for children and families in our region. It is this process of gathering that allows for the building of strong working relationships so that the needs, and potential interventions, become well-defined.

The second is transparency. As common as this term is in our helping system, it is rarely achieved. The ability to be transparent is a result of strong relationships between community partners.

The stronger the relationships, the more we can trust that others are giving us insight through hindsight, helping us to improve the work through an honest exchange of ideas, and that there is an equal commitment to work in the best interest of our communities.

To work with others in a way that is honest and open, despite the challenge of acknowledging weaknesses or shortcomings, is essential for us to find the best practices that will truly make a difference in the lives of those we serve.

The final element, a passion of mine, is the commitment to practice compassionate accountability. This involves demonstrating compassion for those in need, whether physically or emotionally, while assisting them through the twists and turns life brings us. This can be as simple as holding the hand of a grieving parent to as complex as helping an individual who is experiencing the compounding challenges of addiction.

A mentor once shared with me the wisdom of acknowledging that we each have a story and within each of us is the capacity to determine what is written. As a helper, I often remind myself that those who seek help have their own story to write and it is not my story to determine. It is my hope that my impact on another is to be a positive footnote by providing resources and support while helping them narrate their own success story of resiliency and hope.

As we face the future, and the work ahead, it may seem that we have too many crises to bear and not enough resources to make a difference. At these times, we will need to be reminded of what a crisis can mean.

In the Chinese language the symbol for crisis is the combination of the symbols for "danger" and "opportunity." In crisis, regardless of the cause, each of us experiences danger, or the sense of impending danger, and the opportunity for growth.

As we confront each "crisis" experienced in our communities, it will be incumbent upon us to stay focused on working together, being transparent, practicing compassionate accountability, and striving for growth in each opportunity to work together.

Amber Besaw is the executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, abesaw@nbccoalition.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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