Are Suffering and Dignity Truly a Juxtaposition?

Although there are over seven billion people on this planet, each person is incredibly unique. However, as different as we are from each other, almost all humans have an innate longing for connection. Many individuals need human relationships to meet their full potential.  Nevertheless, when we label each other, especially as “in need”, or “vulnerable”, we remove them from being full members of the community. We put them on a different level from our own.

Communities need to be restructured for everyone in all stages of their lives to feel welcome and supported. This idea is the foundation of my stretch project. When individuals are facing times of crisis and change in their lives, important formal health care services can only help so much. In fact, they are incredibly limited in what they can offer because they are so rigid, structured, budget controlled and business oriented.

walker in churchA look into the community at St. Basils Parish

Sustainable community development such as extensively researched Compassionate Communities is what people need in times of hardship. Bonnie Tompkins describes these communities as recognizing how “all natural cycles of sickness and health, birth and death, and love and loss occur everyday”, emphasizing that “care for one another at times of crises and loss…is everyone’s responsibility”.

Allan Kellehear explains how people in vulnerable situations experience “anxiety, depression, social isolation, social stigma, social rejection, family breakdown, premature job loss, financial strain, spiritual dilemmas or crises, even suicide, among a host of other troubles” which affects their quality of life. These issues blind people from seeing that suffering and death is a natural part of being human. Really, the end of life is just as beautiful and significant as the beginning. Therefore, the issues described can only be properly addressed through the cooperation of formal and informal community organizations.

churchSt. Basils Ukrainian Catholic Church

I have been researching sustainable community development in order to establish a Compassionate Community at St. Basils Ukrainian Catholic Parish. After completing my research, I will be meeting with various people and organizations throughout the parish community in order to get people to buy into the project. The difficult part will be assessing the needs of the community while simultaneously motivating a large group of people with individual uniqueness and talents to meet these needs. Eventually the goal is for this change to spread throughout the Catholic community in Edmonton and into the secular communities with which it interacts.

As a big Lord of the Rings fan, I leave you with this:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”. – J.R.R. Tolkien

In the end, this life is all we have. Sometimes its going to be calm, and other times it will be incredibly rocky. Either way it is possible to see beauty and meaning, especially when you are not in it alone. Therefore, I leave it for you to decide. Are suffering and dignity truly a juxtaposition?

-Alicia Chichak

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