Cultivating Thoughtful Community
Community has been on my heart and in my mind lately. Being part of a thoughtful community is something I experienced while we were at the hospital with our babies as well as after like no other time in my life. I am so thankful for the way our friends gathered around us during that time and I would like to use The Will King Foundation to continue creating and cultivating that type of community. There is a clear distinction I want to make here between just being part of a community and being a part of a community that is characterized by thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion. A community is a group of people who simply live in the same area or has a common characteristic. A neighborhood, a church, an office or a group of people who all like the same cookbook are examples. A thoughtful community is a step beyond, linking arms with the tribes, squads and families of the world. It’s a group of people who encourages all it’s members, inspires personal and collective growth and often anticipates needs before they are voiced. They genuinely want to see others thrive as opposed to using others to make themselves look or feel better, therefore being a part of the community brings out the best in every individual involved as well as those around them. They are willing to make sacrifices, always offer to help and are happy to put the needs of others above their own. They make everyone around them feel valued, work together towards a common goal, big or small, and accomplish positive change together They create something that is unbreakable, resilient and strong. When they see someone in crisis or an emergency they don’t just think or say, “I’d really like to help” or “let me know what I can do” because they know that the thinkers and sayers aren’t the ones who create community. It’s the thoughtful doers who know how to show up and make a real difference. They are not a community because they live close to each other or have a similar interest. They are a community because they choose to be, living and working together willingly, joyfully and harmoniously.
Let me give you some examples of how our friends showed up for us while our babies were sick. I had a friend who made me lunch. Literally she went so Zoe’s Kitchen and got chicken salad, dropped it off with some crackers and every day for that whole week I would pack it in a lunch box and take it to the hospital with me. It sounds simple but this was so incredibly thoughtful and appreciated. One, the least of my concerns was eating, but it’s something that was really important not just for my own health but also because I was trying to pump milk for two babies. Two, I didn’t want to take the time to go get lunch because that meant being away from my babies. This same friend helped my children enjoy Christmas activities, met my mom for playdates with our kids and kept Will’s older sister for me. Another friend sent us food, for us and our children. Easy breakfasts, Christmas treats and she even included lots of items made with oats because she knew it would help my milk supply. She also organized playdates, offered to pickup anything we needed whenever she went to Target and had Will’s big brother over for the afternoon multiple times to play with her kids. People sent us care packages directly to the hospital, dropped off frozen dinners and a group of my friends all got together and contributed gift cards to restaurants so we could get quick and easy dinners. A group of women that I work with sent us an Uber Eats gift card. This is particularly thoughtful to me because I work mostly with woman who I have never even met but they still found a way to help. On the morning that Caroline had a pulmonary hemorrhage I was planning to go to a Santa breakfast with my two older children before going to the hospital that day. My husband called me as we were getting ready, explained what was happening and my mom took me immediately to the hospital. I thought Caroline would be dead when I got there. As I left, my four year old son was crying, hugging me and saying that he wanted me to come, that I was supposed to go to the Santa breakfast with him. I didn’t know what to do, I had to go to the hospital but I didn’t want to leave him, he needed to have fun and me leaving was crushing his spirit. My dad still took them and on the way to the hospital my mom called a family friend, woke him up and asked him to go to the breakfast to help my dad with the two children. He was there. A table was all set up for them and he, along with many others, made sure they had so much fun. I am so thankful that we have a community of thoughtful individuals who were there for us during some of the most difficult days of our lives.
The support has not stopped just because we are no longer in crisis. Since establishing The Will King Foundation we have had so much support from our community, near and far. We have been able to say yes to every sponsorship because of the generosity of people who have donated and supported us. Recently we have had people in the community, some who we personally know and others who we don’t, reach out asking if they can contribute. They have an idea, a way to use their business to give back or an idea of how to raise awareness and share Will’s story. Their idea sparks an action. That action is the support we need to continue to carry out our mission, caring for families and providing medical treatment for children. I see the mission we have established as more of the end goal but the way we get there is truly special because we do it by uniting together to make a difference. There is nothing that creates community like having a common mission, something you are all working for together and aspiring to achieve. This vision inspires me. It's working together along with our family, friends and neighbors to support the medical needs of children while also sharing our inspiration, Will. It's teaching our children about giving back and showing them tangible ways of how we can do that alongside others. Whether it’s a fundraising effort, a platform to share Will’s story or an intimate conversation, I think it all brings people together because we are working towards something bigger, something important, something meaningful and powerful that we all care deeply about. This is the spirit of community that I would like to capture, replicate, encourage in my children and cultivate as a defining characteristic of our foundation and our family.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a fan of unwanted advice, but I feel that I need to give some here. If you know someone in a crisis, difficult situation or that needs support, I would encourage you to take action. When someone is in a crisis, they simply cannot do anything except focus on that crisis. So if you generously say “please let me know what I can do for you” or “I would love to help in any way” they probably are not going to be able to say anything. I have done this so many times, thinking it opens an invitation for the person to reach out if they need anything and it does, which sometimes is really all you can do. However, now I know that it is probably just asking them to think about one more thing that they do not have the capacity to think about. If you really want to help then you have to do just that - help. Without being asked or told what to do. Imagine yourself in that person's situation, even if you have never experienced it before, and ask yourself “what would I need if this was happening to me?” and then do that. Don't wait for someone to tell you exactly what to do or reach out with a specific request. If they do, great! Go above and beyond to fulfill their request. However, in a real crisis, this seldom happens so don’t wait for the person in need to tell you how you can meet their need. If you really don’t know how to be helpful but want to, think of a few ideas and ask which one would be best. Multiple choice is better than fill in the blank. My brain could literally not process or think of one more thing but if someone said I can do A, B or C I could have picked and said yes, do that. Who can you help today? It doesn’t have to be someone in a crisis like ours. Do you have a neighbor that could use a home cooked dinner? Don’t ask, just take it to them, say, “hey, I’m going to bring dinner by tonight, will you be home around 6pm?”. Do you know a family who has just experienced a tragedy, loss or difficult circumstances? Think of what would help you most if you were experiencing the same situation. Last year when Hurricane Irma ripped through our city thoughtful community came out everywhere. People were raising money, volunteering to clean up and opening up there homes for people still without power. They didn't ask, "Is is okay if I organize a fundraiser to help cover some of the cost of damages to your home?" No, instead, they just did it, collected the funds and gave it to the family in need. It comes down to this - be intentional, be emphatic and take action. We had so many people do this for us and I don’t think I can ever truly express our gratitude to them. Now it’s our turn. With your help I believe we truly are making a difference and in my mind we are just getting started. To me, that’s thoughtful community.
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Our mission is to children from developing countries receiving heart treatment in Jacksonville, FL.
My name is Courtney Hughes and I am Will's mommy. I am happy that you are here to read Will's story and make a difference with us!