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finding affiliation

October 30, 2013

How can we help the person deepen and expand their relationships?  some examples“So many people enter groups in order to develop a certain form of spirituality or to acquire knowledge about the things of God and of humanity. But that is not a community; it is a school. It becomes community only when people start truly caring for each other and for each other’s growth.”  Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p.20

We talk a lot about affiliation when we discuss support networks and interdependence with different groups.   This quote from Jean Vanier clicked for me because last month I met a person with a disability who had after many trials and a long time looking finally found a job, and soon after she’d passed probation she decided she would like to work part time not full time and would go volunteer with kids at a church day care.   Everyone was pretty surprised as the job thing had been a very big deal, but when her boss asked her what her reasons were she said that she wanted to a) be with other people who were also thinking about spiritual community b) learn some new skills and c) give back to the community because she felt so grateful for the job that she’d finally got, and felt so good about her work there.

This is the dictionary definition of “affiliate”:

af·fil·i·ate  (-flt)

v. af·fil·i·at·edaf·fil·i·at·ingaf·fil·i·ates

1. To adopt or accept as a member, subordinate associate, or branch: The HMO affiliated the clinics last year.
2. To associate (oneself) as a subordinate, subsidiary, employee, or member: affiliated herself with a new law firm.
3. To assign the origin of.

To become closely connected or associated: The two unions voted to affiliate.
n. (-t, –t)

A person, organization, or establishment associated with another as a subordinate, subsidiary, or member: network affiliates.

[Medieval Latin afflireto adopt : Latin ad-ad- + Latin fliusson; see dh(i)- in Indo-European roots.]

af·fili·ation n.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

To become an affiliate or to be affiliated is to, in essence, choose one’s family – to be adopted, to become a member, to associate, to connect, to network.   There is so much power in these words.

Often, when people feel lonely or disconnected they wonder how they can find others to connect with.  Sharing what you love and are passionate about and interested in with others who also share that passion is one of the basic tools for connection.  A thing we’ve found we cannot assume is that once people are in those groups they will know what to do.   Getting to the group is not the point – that’s about a physical place rather than a social connection.

We did some great role playing with a group last month who recognised that they wanted some more concrete skills.   We started by pretending we were in an exercise class and realized how quickly, even though we were role-playing people who wanted to make new friends at a class, we got caught up in the instructor’s agenda – bend this way, stretch that way, run in place.   So we did it again, holding a different agenda around meeting others – looking at them eye to eye, smiling, asking people’s names, suggesting we might go for a snack afterwards.   Finally we did it again and the people with disabilities among us all wanted to play staff – and the parents and staff wanted to play people with disabilities – and we used a David Wetherow technique to talk about what was the stream in all of this that staff might be part of.   It was interesting to see how aware folks were of very subtle social cues, and how much better it felt to practice these things and feel a little more certain about what our next steps might be.

As Jean Vanier so wisely says, there is a difference about what we learn in places like “a school,” and how those places can become “community only when people start truly caring for each other and for each other’s growth.”

Some people we’ve met in the last while who have made friends through sharing what they love with others who are passionate about the same things lately have:

– met people who also love talking about hairstyles and hairdressing

– other crafters through knitting

– other people who love the outdoors through fishing

– others who love reading through book clubs

– others who love cooking through community kitchens

Have you made a friend through a shared activity that both of you love?  Please let us know 🙂

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