It Takes a Village

Two years ago I lost a brother to suicide, and four months ago my youngest (and closest) sister died. When I was 14 years old, my mother committed suicide.

The childhood my siblings and I shared, though privileged in some ways, held many of the misfortunes that create people who can’t survive. Recently, I have thought a lot about what made me someone who could.

Being the oldest, I had something that my siblings did not. By the time my family fell apart—my mother launching the first of her several suicide attempts, my father growing harsh and neglectful—I was already part of the community in our multi-family buildings and was old enough at the age of five to have left my little footprint. People knew me by name. I knew other children and their parents. I would knock on a door when I knew it was dinnertime. I would find someone to invite me in when I was locked out of our apartment and no adult was around to let me in. Neighbors gave me hand-me-downs. They bought the little books I wrote and sold door-to-door, and on at least two occasions, when the police came to my apartment—once to break up a violent fight and once to take my mother, who had been resuscitated from an overdose, to the local hospital—neighbors came over with cookies and made tea, and made things feel normal. It was impossible to keep a secret in a huge, upper-middle-class apartment complex in the 1960s, yet, to my knowledge, not a single family prevented their children from playing with me or inviting me home. I was included and cared for. I never overheard any gossip about my family or me. I lived in an unfriendly home but in a very friendly world.

Many years later, after raising a son and establishing a career, I decided to slow down my pace for a time. I took care of a few corporate clients, fell in love with the man who would become my husband, sent my son off to college, and wrote my seventh book in the cocoon of my home. My life was peaceful, full of work and love, and, well, good things. Then my brother took his life.

Suddenly I had a need to do healing. Not healing one-on-one, but rather, in big groups where I would lay my hands on each person. I wanted to do healings like that all over the country. Healing is intimate and is best done in a group, the bigger the better, where the combined energy of the participants can be channeled into something exponentially more powerful than the number of people present would suggest. When I posted the first Laying on of Hands Circle, I wasn’t sure whether anyone would come. The first Circle I set up was standing room only. The next one had over 250 people! Sometimes people would report miraculous physical, economic, and emotional healings after the events. Some were disappointed that nothing happened for them. For me there was both enormous satisfaction when people healed and a sense of failure when people didn’t get what they came for. In other words, the experience was a mixed bag, but as I did it, I was feeling better and better, more and more optimistic about being alive.

I didn’t have any clear explanation for why I was doing the healings. I was doing them at my own expense, charging no admission so that there would be no question of whether someone could afford to attend, and most of the time the venue wasn’t even set up to sell my books. It wasn’t until the second hit came, two years later, in the form of my sister’s untimely death, that I understood. As we sat shiva, a Jewish ritual in which the community gathers around the family for days, solid and implacable, at a time when the mourning would often rather just curl up in a ball, I understood that I was doing what had sustained and saved me in my childhood. I was placing myself in a community! In fact, I was creating for myself so many communities that everywhere I went, there were people I cared about who cared about me.

I am sure all of you have a memory of one small thing someone did that gave you hope, sustained you in a time of need, renewed your sense of self, or revived your strength…someone who provided a couch, some cash, a meal, a new experience, or simple company. Community is strength. Community is resilience. Community gives us the flexibility to grow, supported—to be more than we could have been on our own.

In the struggles of my adult life, I have been able to find communities of support, because I learned in my childhood that they were there. Not everyone has had this experience. I don’t believe that my siblings did. I believe that we need to build communities, practice community, expand our communities, become part of new communities, seed communities. Where there is unity, there is strength.

This is especially poignant at this historical moment, when waves of immigrants are crossing borders into places where they are often unwelcome. Once you make someone “other,” you cannot enjoy the reciprocity of support that community gives.

I do the process contained in my book, The Circle, every day. It wasn’t until I wrote this article that I realized that what makes it so powerful for me is that it recreates, in every step, the community that gave me so many choices of who to be, where to go, how to respond, and what to create. What you do counts. Every time you reach out to another, you are creating a web of support that sustains us all.

Laura Day

About the Author | Laura Day

Laura Day is an internationally renowned teacher, psychic, and New York Times-bestselling author. She is considered a leader in the Intuition movement. Her Practical Intuition book series and her pioneering work have helped demystify intuition and demonstrate its practical, verifiable uses in the fields of business, science, medicine, and personal growth. Laura has trained and helped hundreds of thousands of people—scientists, celebrities, business executives, and other professionals—to use their “sixth sense” to successfully attain their personal and professional goals. Find out more at http://www.laura-day.com.

Leave a Reply

18 comments to "It Takes a Village"

  • DarleneA

    Thank you for sharing your story of resiliency.. Everyone needs a caring community and caring people, such as yourself. Have a good day.

  • I spent most of my life not knowing how to create or be part of this kind of community. It wasn’t until I reached rock bottom that I couldn’t not accept the community that was reaching out to me. That was the first step in reaching out to others. It’s changed me and my life so completely I’m almost unrecognizable to myself.

  • Thank you Kiri for sharing this. I wrote a book called Welcome to Your Crisis and in it I state my firm believe that at rock bottom there are many treasures to be found.

  • Thank you for this beautiful story. It touched my heart. It reminds me that I do have time to reach out to others and not just electronically. Seeing others in person is so important and the experience is worth making the time for.

  • Your books, healings and words have brought me relief. The circle invited my greatest wish into being. Your voice has often been in my ear in audiobook form. You’ve seen me once in a while in LA at an event or 2 (or 3) and it’s always a little awkward as you feel like a sister/best friend but we don’t know each other. Sorry for all the loss you’ve had– good lord, that’s a lot. Some don’t realize how vulnerable healers are. Healing others doesn’t remove your own pain (though it helps– sometimes a little, sometimes a lot). And who knows why, but often the healers and seekers have the toughest paths and where do they turn when their feet get tender? May there always be a cool stream nearby you can dip your toes into. Love you. Reach out if you need anything.

  • Gloria

    Thank you for your story. The question of who grows resiliency and who does not is one I have thought about also.

    I think community is one aspect , and the way we come in, out constitution is another part of who we are.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Instinctively I would like to wrap a huge, warm and comforting coat around you and tell you how great you are, doing all you do for everyone of us:) Thank you very much and thank you to remind everyone that more good is out there than we sometimes imagine:) And so close:)

  • Elise Vachon

    Laura, thank you so much for your insights. They were very inspirational and motivating. I loved reading your story and it makes me want to share mine so that others can be helped too. Thank you again, Elise.

  • Elise,

    Sharing our stories, no matter how vulnerable that may make us, reminds others that they are not alone. I think that the worst part of early trauma is that it is isolating and it teaches us to isolate because as children we feel like something must be wrong with us. Share your story!!!

  • Carla Tarantino

    Laura thank you so much for sharing this!! You are a survivor and I agree 100% in the power of community. I often times like to isolate and enjoy my alone time, I had a tumultuous childhood and don’t always trust others. But if I let myself trust and open up to receive it can be very healing.
    You are doing amazing work and I am happy someone introduced me to your work in 2004. We are blessed <3

  • Dahana

    Thank you Laura. I had the pleasure of meeting you last August in New Paltz. I am seeking to establish the very community you speak of.
    I would agree it is very important.
    As I meditate in the Circle I become increasingly closer to finding it in a new home of my own

    • Dayana, the best things I have created, I have created from my own need and then shared the cornucopia with others. To create the space for community to form is a wonderful thing and what I love about The Circle, is that it is the foundation to which people like you add their unique gifts, making it even richer and more healing
      xo

  • Thank you Carla for taking the time to write a comment. I also struggle with trust and find myself trusting the wrong people as my first examples of trusted people were not good ones. Instead of trust, which I used to do both ambivalently and blindly, often hiding from myself the very qualities in someone I shouldn’t trust because I was so isolated by my fear of trusting in the first place, that it made me perfect prey for unscrupulous people. I try now to approach each situation with an observant but non-judgmental eye and place trust in my ability to discern (and when in doubt I now really listen to the council of people who have proven themselves to me over time). It takes a lifetime to survive a difficult childhood but, what wonders are created in the effort xo