The Priceless Gifts of Connecting and Being Seen
I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.
Brene Brown, Social Researcher
On December 11, Be Strong Families and Foothill Family Services hosted a Holiday Caregiver Appreciation Event to recognize relative caregivers in Southern California for their dedication to family, loving persistence and willingness to go above and beyond to ensure a positive future for the children in their families.
It was a beautiful night filled with flowers, music, toys, food, and art. The festive environment was key to creating a comfortable place for caregivers and families to connect with one another. Within this uplifting space, caregivers and children had opportunities to reflect on and share their experiences in different ways. At Café conversation tables, caregivers shared with each other using cards from our Vitality Café in a Box. At a meet and greet with CEO Katthe Wolf, caregivers received a personal encouragement in their Living the Protective Factors book and drew a card from the new deck of Living the Protective Factors Affirmation Cards. Caregivers and children had the chance to explore their creativity through ornament-making, a Lifebooks station, and a Dream Board activity facilitated by Neredia Carrasco from the Pasadena Department of Public Health. Las Fotos Project captured the spirit of celebration with a photobooth for family holiday photos. Each caregiver was called on stage to receive a Certificate of Appreciation and share highlights of 2018 and aspirations for their families in 2019. During this part of the program, we heard about all of life’s ups and downs: children making the honor roll, families reunified, the death of a spouse, illness overcome. Overall, the mood was one of hope and resilience that demonstrated the deep love and commitment of these family members to the children in their care, and celebration as children and caregivers won raffle prizes.
Throughout the event, I witnessed many powerful moments of connection. I saw two grandmothers who were seated at the same dinner table delight in learning about what they share in common, and exchange phone numbers to forge a new friendship. I talked with a caregiver as she stepped away from the Café conversation who told me, “It’s good to be reminded that we can and do learn from each other. Sometimes we get so caught up with our own stuff, we forget that others have been there, too.”
My favorite moment was connecting with a middle-school age boy who hesitantly sat down between two little kids at the ornament making table. While he looked over the materials and tried to decide if he was too cool to take part, I encouraged him to make anything he wanted. About 30 minutes later, he approached the drink table wearing his new creation, an amulet with the logo of his favorite metal band. When I recognized the logo and asked if this was his favorite band, his cool kid façade was replaced by a look of astonishment that I (a really old person) knew the band and was interested in his taste in music.
Connecting with my young friend over music reminded me that we all want to be seen, heard, and valued for who we are. Be Strong Families is intentional in designing our services and resources to create spaces for each of us to be recognized, nurtured, and connected. It is our heartfelt hope for 2019 that our families and communities have more experiences like this that nurture the spirit of family and promote well-being.
Be Strong Families is available to assist your organization in planning and hosting Appreciation Events. Contact Nadia Washington, Organizational Advancement Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
Article by Alexis Moreno, Outcomes and Impact Team Lead & Senior Trainer