Monday Must: Keeping that Sense of Community (even through a pandemic)
Hi! I’m Jen Neales (she/her), the Owner + Creative Director at Little Rebels Music and Development. Over the last 5.5 years I have been bringing music and development programming to thousands of families all over Toronto and the GTA alongside an incredible team of teachers and staff members. And, since March, 2020 I have been bringing Little Rebels online to families all over the province, country, and world.
This global expansion wasn’t planned, though.
COVID-19 forced us to rethink what Little Rebels could be in the world, how we could bring music and development to families all over, and what kind of voice we wanted to be in this new world we were catapulted into.
My personal life and my professional life are aligned, and both are deeply rooted in community, equity, connection, and advocacy. I want every child to feel safe, valued, and loved for exactly who they are, so they grow into compassionate, kind, and confident adults. This is true of my relationship with my nieces and nephews, and to all of the tiny humans out there who see me as an extension of their families too. Community is what has helped Little Rebels grow through this pandemic, but it’s also what helped me survive, mentally, through this pandemic. Community is how we get through… everything.
I chose this topic because community is how we keep our connection to one another, and how we show children, the most easily influenced group of humans among us, how we need to be in the world. Given how divided our world is becoming… how divided it always has been… we must, at all costs, be the example to our children that equitable, compassionate people, neighbourhoods, organizations, countries, are the only things that will keep this place safe for everyone. Community is how we survive, but more so how we thrive.
Together is the only way forward
We are stronger in numbers. We cannot focus on creating a more just and equitable world for our tiny humans to inherit if we are divided. When I look around at the larger community we’ve been able to build by INCLUDING folks who are not always included, I know in my heart that this is the only way we move forward. We engage in our community by welcoming families that come in ALL forms, and we don’t stop at just being “welcoming,” instead we actively work to create a safer space for our families to belong.
Community over competition
There are so many valuable people and organizations like Little Rebels in the world - organizations that foster learning, love of music, kindness, and all that we stand for. And we need every single one one of them; there’s room for every single one of them. I absolutely believe that there is enough to go around and it’s important that organizations that work within the same demographic share resources, share community, and use their shared passion for working with tiny humans. I once read, “we believe in the value of one and the power of many,” and that rings true for me every single day.
Commit to bringing the joy
I don’t mean toxic positivity. I don’t mean be joyful all the time. I mean commit to being a light in a storm. I mean be a person in your community that fosters connection with a passion for growth, for silver-linings, for fun. Being that person, when you’re able, is what could spark joy in another human being, and this ripples out into the community, the same way fear and anger can do the same. My hope is always to be a bringer of joy to the families we work with.
Build others up
One of my most favourite things is when heart-centered, community-focused folk have the spotlight shining on them! When you highlight and feature people in your community that are doing amazing things, it is inevitable that more people will get involved, join movements, and in turn, highlight others in THEIR communities. When we build others up, we rise together.
Be of service
This one question changed my life: "How can I help?"
When I was feeling utterly helpless, when I was in my deepest “blue”, this was the question that shaped how I would channel my spirit. Nothing feeds my soul more than being of service. I feel most alive when I am giving back, when I’m working on a movement that uplifts, inspires, and advocates for change where it is most needed. Barack Obama once said, “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” I feel that in my very core.
Here are some links to places/things I love and would love to share:
One2Give — small ask, big impact — a local Toronto org committed to being of service to schools and shelters in the GTA
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