Connecting local responses around the world
"There are no rules. Just follow the principles of being human," he said.
And, suddenly, I realised why this centre - a Government Run Drug Rehabilitation Centre in the snowy forest of Siberia, Russia - was so successful.
"Just follow the principles of being human".
I often marvel on how our society looks for the complicated. We seem to relish complexity over simplicity and in people we look for "expertise" over real-life experience. Furthermore, all too often, for knowledge to be widely recognised, we require rigorous evaluations, independent research and measurement.
So what does it mean when a Russian Institution like 'Will', dealing daily with people facing their intense addictions, centres on something so simple as "Just follow the principles of being human".
It means they trust in their community. It means they believe that human values are inherently good. It means that they believe in the capacity of their community to be healthy and supportive of one another.
I learned a lot from this SALT Visit, and from the residents of 'Will'. Firstly, it made me reflect on the rules I place on my own life, and family. The way I act, the way I work, the way I take care of myself - I realised that none of this needs to stem from a complex list of rules. Human principles are enough.
Perhaps this is more easily said than done. As individuals and communities, we are bombarded daily with "self-help" messages through the media, facebook, twitter etc, telling us how to live, think, act and interact. While sometimes these are useful reminders, is it really possible (or realistic) to apply all of these rules for living, all the time? Remember Robyn Okrant? She spent a whole year doing EVERYTHING Oprah said on her show... and blogged about it http://www.livingoprah.com/, with interesting results:
"It was incredibly draining, and it made me really sad. It made me sad to think of how many hours I've lost--even when I wasn't doing the project--to blindly following advice and listening to what other people tell me I should be doing to create my own happiness."
Of course, when it comes to building strong communities like Will, many may choose to apply certain specific practices. At Will, each resident was given a leadership role to ensure they were actively engaged in the health of the community, the farm and the farm animals. As a practice, Leadership enabled the residents to realise their value and role in the community.
Other practices were put into place. Abstinence from drug use and alcohol. Engaging in exercise and recreation. Therapy with animals (bunny rabbits - see the photos, attached!).
But practices are different. They are active, positive and normative. They encourage us to move forward, to take action. Rules, on the other hand, don't have quite the same ring about them, do they?
Having too many rules, in my experience, restricts us, confuses us and adds to the complexity of life. I believe, as we focus on rules, we lose our deeper sense of purpose; our vision is clouded.
But the residents at 'Will' showed me that a strong community is possible if it applies but one rule and one only.
Just be human. Simple.
I want to express gratitude to the Russian Facilitation Team, the Irkutsk Facilitators and Red Cross Irkutsk for allowing me to accompany them on this SALT visit. I learned so much from them. They opened up - as humans, with their own personal experiences, concerns and experiences - and shared with the community members. Everyone felt appreciated. As a result, a bridge of trust was built. I watched it being constructed, brick by brick, as each person shared their experience. There was no Us and Them. Just all of us together. Humans.
I laid a brick too - sharing my own concerns about addiction in the life of someone close to me. It was hard to share this deeply personal story, but it was definitely worthwhile. My new friends around the table encouraged me. They shared their own experiences of overcoming addiction. Their solutions were not complex nor "expert" in any way. They were based on the values of love, patience and belief - so simple, so human, so encouraging.