This Map Will Change How You Think About Communities in Crisis

Image by Cristin Lind

Coronavirus (understandably) broke the internet. Scroll through your social media feeds and you’ll find stories-on-stories, from personal anecdotes to front-page features, describing how the virus has drastically disrupted daily life. Schools have closed. Restaurants have closed their dining halls. And entire counties have quarantined their residents.

These shifts will stymie the spread of the virus—the ultimate goal, undoubtedly. Fast-forward however many months as people resume their usual routines and we’ll have the once self-isolated and socially distanced to thank. No question. But amid the pictures of empty store aisles and vacant public squares, you’ll find a different story less prominent, though, I’d argue, equally important: people from all walks of life—from citizens to leaders, professionals to neighbors, and everyone in between—responsibly taking action to serve their fellow humans in need.

Think the nonprofits feeding children who usually get their meals from school, the small businesses working together to shift their services from dine-in to take-out, or the people sharing the latest updates throughout the neighborhood.  As Strong Towns president and founder Chuck Marohn has written, we’re beginning to witness the best humans have to offer. These stories deliver flashes of hope in the midst of a global crisis. But, more important, they demonstrate how everyone—young or old, healthy or ill—fits in communities’ maps of care.

In 2012, as she began navigating the mix of providers who treat her son’s rare condition, Cristin Lind began creating care maps: roughly drawn maps (I’m talkin’ just a pencil and pad) that help people visualize the complexity and interconnectivity of someone’s care delivery. Scan through the care map above and you’ll find threads of the usual providers, such as doctors, therapists, and dentists. However, you’ll also find nontraditional providers who deliver care outside the clinic. Think family, friends, and neighbors who deeply understand personal details that affect someone’s health.

You have a care map, too—though it looked a little different pre-coronavirus. Maybe your primary care physician had delivered the bulk of your care, treating the occasional cold or injury. Maybe your church, child, or sourdough-obsessed neighbor had helped a little, too, as needed. Today, however, your care map looks a bit more complex, as new public health policies shift how communities achieve basic levels of care. You can expect something new tomorrow. The day after that, as well. You likely felt it the moment you asked your neighbor for a roll of toilet paper.

Understand that this shift has affected everyone in your community—healthy or ill—as well. Perhaps unknowingly, you now serve an essential role in your community’s care map. You may serve the role of doctor, administering tests and treatments. You may serve the role of employer, finding ways to support your employees who fear they’ll lose their income. Or, like most of us, you may serve the role of neighbor, responsibly self-isolating or filling the gaps in the complex web of care your community suddenly faces.

Today—and for the foreseeable future—your care map is intertwined with your community more than ever, strengthening with each new thread. Though these new threads likely include familiar faces (like the neighbors who’ve, on more than one occasion, jumped your car, walked your dog, etc.), together, you’ll likely find yourselves asked to give or receive care in unexpected ways.

How will you respond? Who will you tell? And where do you fit in your communtiy’s ever-growing web of care? As the country awaits top-down intervention, may your map guide the bottom-up action you can take today to make your community stronger.

Written By: Jacob Moses serves as Community Builder for Strong Towns. After graduating from the University of North Texas, he worked as a technical writer in Boulder, Colorado and, most recent, as a grocer in his neighborhood of Downtown Denton, Texas. Among the topics that Strong Towns covers, Jacob most believes in complete neighborhoods and encouraging his peers to, as he likes to phrase it, live on a neighborhood-level.

(Published originally on StrongTowns)

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