By Michelle Scott
We at Riverwalk are strong believers in peer support. We believe that some of the strongest and most meaningful support can come from people who have “been there” – people who have had similar experiences and can share their stories of struggle and success in order to teach each other and learn from one another.We believe that a culture of peer support is integral to living a balanced life. By culture of peer support, we mean peer support that extends beyond support groups or wellness campaigns. We mean peer support as a way of life.One of the most wonderful things about being human is our ability to connect with one another, to feel in tune with a relative stranger just by virtue of them having had similar experiences. Unfortunately, this capacity is often underutilized in our society. In many ways we are encouraged to pit ourselves against one another, to compete for affection, attention, status, money. We are often encouraged to cast a cynical eye on expressions of genuine caring, often asking ourselves, what does this person really want from me? what are they trying to sell me? It is often easier to churn out expressions of cynicism and derision than genuine expressions of gratitude. This creates a culture in which many people are afraid to show personal vulnerability and caring for one another. Talking about ‘caring for one another’ makes people uncomfortable. Even reading this may be making you uncomfortable. Because, why should I care about someone I don’t even really know? what is their life to me?If we were all more open to one another, open to sharing our own vulnerabilities while trusting that others would not exploit them, and being open to showing care and respect for others when they show their vulnerabilities to us, we would be able to build a culture in which we did not have to put up a front of cynicism, boredom, and derision. We would feel more complete, more connected, and less lonely. We would understand and nurture the power of togetherness by rallying against the inherent isolation of a single human existence reflecting solely on itself.We are all “peers” in one way or another – we have, all of us, experienced some sort of hardship and challenge. We all have the capacity to draw from our experiences to lend strength to others and draw strength from others when we need it.This is the kind of culture that we are wishing to create at Riverwalk. We are launching our new outreach campaign, Live Edge, and in doing so we are making a declaration to do our part to change the culture of human interaction as we know it in this society. We want to work towards banishing the inherent suspicion and fear that we have when it comes to being open to one another. We want to create an environment in which people can feel free to express their true thoughts and feelings without fear of retribution. All are welcome to join one of our groups, contribute writing or art to our blog, volunteer at one of our events, or make a donation in someone’s name. Check out http://www.edoyr.com/ for information on how to get involved.We also encourage others to carry this spirit of peer support into their everyday lives. Being the first among many in any revolution of thought is a daunting task. But we are here for you every step of the way.We all share in this existence together, and we all have the capacity to support one another and the permission to draw on each other for support. This is possibly the greatest advantage of being a human, of being alive.This is our Live Edge.