Perspective: Community Engagement Brings (Meit)healing

Jan 14, 2021

Though my own heritage is a wee bit more Scottish than Irish, I feel a deep connection to all things Celtic and I recently watched a new movie set in Ireland. Not wanting to give too much away, the story involved a ragtag group of folks coming together as a community to help the lead character get back on her feet.

The ancient Irish term, meitheal, was used to describe communal effort for the good of one member. As one character noted, when we come together as a community in the service of another, not only does it help the recipient, it benefits everyone involved, as well.

Traditionally, the term referred to agricultural tasks, but it conveys the essence of good that is done in a variety of settings. For instance, when my father-in-law broke his hip, his small, rural community came together to build a ramp at his home. Laughter, camaraderie, and sweat filled the morning and the communal effort made for quick work and a strong sense of pride when the job was done.

Meitheal describes the union of two key “feel good” factors, doing someone a “solid” and having a sense of belonging.  Both of these generate endorphins, serotonin, and other “natural high” inducing neurochemicals. No wonder the healing of self happens through the healing of others, right?

Human connection and social bonding form the glue that keeps us from coming unraveled – even this past year when contact with others has been so limited and so fraught with concern. From Zoomed-in check-ins and drive-by celebrations, we’ve learned how to creatively satisfy our need to belong and connect. The times may be a’changing, but the ancient pleasure derived from community engagement and giving back remain the same.

                                                                                                                                                                  

I’m  Suzanne Degges White, and that's my Perspective.