Jacob Cramer is a Research & Planning Assistant with BC Healthy Communities. In this blog post, Jacob reflects on his first few months working at BC Healthy Communities and his approach to working with communities.
Most days at BC Healthy Communities I feel two things: fortunate and conflicted. I feel fortunate because my workplace is welcoming and safe and my coworkers are bright, caring and compassionate. I also feel fortunate because I get to work on projects that attempt to address complex social matters, which I find interesting and important.
But I’m conflicted because there are days where I feel as though the work I do, engaging and researching with communities, might be more effectively done by someone who is actually experiencing the challenges and successes we as an organization try to understand and support.
I’m conflicted because I see my role supporting our program evaluation as necessary, but I find it difficult to measure the impact of our work, and I find it a problematic oversimplification to assign credit to our organization for successes, when I know that healthy community changes are incredibly intricate, interrelated, and community-driven.
I’m also conflicted because I have no way of knowing whether my actions at work are helping or harming the planet. While one of the Healthy Community pillars is generating and supporting multi-sectoral partnerships, I can’t ignore the fact that this often requires air travel, and with it an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions.
Traditionally, I quelled my confusion by reminding myself of how fortunate I am to have great co-workers, to be able to think critically at work, and to be reassured by individuals in communities across the province that our organization has helped them advance their Healthy Community agendas.
Recently, however, I’ve been working to deal with the guilt that comes with my privilege in a different way. It’s an approach that focuses less on making me feel better and instead on making others feel that same way: I’m trying to be kinder and more loving.
While I don’t know if this will resolve my uncertainty or reconcile my conflicted feelings, I know that on any given day, and in any given relationship, being kind, attentive and considerate can’t be a bad thing. No matter how I feel about working with communities from a distance, about our webinars’ ability to impact community housing policy, or about my choice to book a flight, being generous with my time and my heart are never things I will second guess myself about.
At its extremities, the social determinants of health are a complex web of intertwined physical, environmental, social and emotional situations that play out in innumerable different lived experiences. At its core, however, our work is rooted in creating meaningful relationships. While I continue to grapple with my place in making BC communities healthier for all, I will continue to smile more, listen more, love more and not think twice about it.
As someone far wiser who I recently met imparted to me, “You don’t have to go to school to be a good friend.”
Author Credit: Jacob Cramer