In Blog

The Value of Community

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BY Jessica Roy, Community Engagement Fellow

North Carolina is my home. I was born and raised in Eastern NC, live in Raleigh now, and have always considered myself a proud North Carolinian. Our state is wonderful – we have the mountains, we have the coast, and the rolling foothills nestled in between. We have sweet tea, BBQ, and some of the best sports rivalries in the country. Here in the Triangle we are a hub of higher education institutions and industry. As a whole, we are one of the most educated (and I would argue) one of the friendliest places in the country. What a great community to belong to!

But, as Sarah discussed in her earlier blog post, there are other characteristics of our community which are hidden from view and many of us are ignorant of. Statistics about poverty, hunger, inequality, and poor educational outcomes. These facts give us the unsettling realization that, contrary to how it may seem, there are holes in the fabric of our community that many people are slipping through. The range of experiences of those living in this area is vast, and many families and individuals are struggling to survive and thrive day-to-day. This is the “Triangle Paradox”.

But who is responsible for these gaps? While issues like poverty and inequality are wildly complex, and have no one cause – I would argue that, regardless of fault, we are all accountable for finding solutions. We, as a community, are unable to provide a reasonable quality of life for all who live here. We, as a community, are unable to send all of our children to school with full tummies. I say “our children” because they are not someone else’s children, someone else’s problem. They are ours.

I recently watched a TED talk by Father Gregory Boyle on compassion and kinship and he said:

“How do we create and imagine a circle of compassion and then imagine no one standing outside of that circle? How can we achieve a certain kind of compassion that stands in awe at what the poor have to carry, rather than stand in judgement in how they carry it? For the measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them, in mutuality.”

I do not have the solutions to poverty and inequality in the triangle, but I know that it starts with recognizing the value of community. In my time at United Way, I hope to introduce the other side of the “Triangle Paradox” to those who may not know what some in of our neighbors are facing. But, I hope that my reach does not stop there. My desire is not only to spread awareness, but to ignite in others this yearning for a strong community. One UNITED community. One circle of compassion that stands in awe of all its members…and one that can say “I am truly proud to call the Triangle my home”.