My recent studies and year of supervised practice in psychotherapy demonstrated to me from a different perspective how vitally important a loving, stable family is for children's development. However, I think we've come as a culture to a point where people are much more articulate about how harmful family life can be than they are about how necessary, loving family life is. I'm more convinced than ever that if we are to build good communities for kids, we've got to make the renewal of productive, stable families with at least two, committed and caring adults part of the process.
How desperately our society needs to evolve a new form of loving, productive family life! How urgently our young people need a vision of family life that is dignified and feasible practically. Yet again, I have talked with another young friend about whom I care very much, with her worrying over whether it will even be feasible for her and her male partner to come together in marriage. The traction for marriage has become very weak, very thin, almost to where it's not considered seriously by many adults. I believe that traction has eroded because many young folks barely know what it's like to enjoy enough control of one's immediate life to consider building a family and a decent family habitat. Even phrasing the issue that way sounds out-of-reach, outmoded, or outside their relevant range of choices.
Recently, I've begun a new phase of my work. I'm still about building good communities around children, and I'm still devoted to building up the co-productive capacities of families. But now, I'm studying and beginning to practice on the inner dimensions of those challenges. Since, fall, 2013 I've been studying as a Fellow at The Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. I've also been taking courses there in Self Psychology and Object Relations. And now, I am beginning a supervised clinical practice in a school in Chicago's south side where I will be earning the hours I need to eventually apply for my clinical license.
I am blessed to live in a place where community really matters. In Oak Park, lots of people work in many, varied ways to make this village a diverse, highly participatory, and yet densely integrated place where friendships overlap with institutional affiliations and civic activities. I see people I met while I was coaching youth baseball for over ten years in the late 90s and early 2000s. I reminisce with parents about those years and catch up with news of their now young-adult sons and daughters (I coached the sons, and many of the little sisters attended the games). I'll see them at the Farmers' Market or at local stores.
Now, I am on the board of the rapidly expanding Sugar Beet Cooperative. At the core of this network are families in northeast Oak Park, many of them of the same age now that I was while coaching. It's fun and warming to get to share important concerns about food and sustainability with them, while getting to know their little ones!
Then there is the church choir in which Maureen and I sing. Some of the choir members are also supportive of the Sugar Beet; those represent more overlapping interests. Our Village and civic organizations regularly sponsor festivals, fairs, and other events that reinforce ties with old friends and open opportunities for new contacts. Local print and electronic media provide many accessible forums for expressing views and updating events. As planners like to say, "place matters," and in Oak Park, a lot of good work goes into fostering, encouraging, and celebrating our crisscrossing civic and social relationships.
I have the pleasure and honor of serving on the board of a new entity that very much exhibits the principles and practices of family-generated community building. We call our organization the Sugar Beet Cooperative. Started by Cheryl Munoz, Jenny Jocks Stelzer, Lisa Boone, and Maureen Spain (and their families), the co-op will bridge the original group of families who grow food in their own backyards to growers in the broader Chicago region. We will create a community store and a variety of related community education and development programs. The first membership-building party is to be held at Unity Temple in Oak Park on January 12, 2012. Individuals and families who want to become members can join at this event. (See the poster to the right of this blog).
We intend that this project will provide access to affordable, healthy food grown locally to people in Oak Park and surrounding communities, with a special outreach to our neighbors in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Our goal is to have the store up and running in the second half of 2014. The community programs have already been underway, including an edible garden tour and other activities.
This project shows in an exciting way how productive families can collaborate with community organizations and local governments to make places like Oak Park and Austin good places to live!
The Sugar Beet website will soon be revised, but the current site is at: www.sugarbeetcoop.com