Snowy Days

I’m looking out my sisters window watching my children play with their cousins. Two of them are trying to catch snowflakes in their mouth with outstretched tongues while the neighbor dog happily wags her tail. We sip on chai tea as it aromatically fills the room with rich spices. My oldest nephew, who celebrates his seventeenth birthday today, is building a colossal snow man that requires the excavator to place the body and head on top of the base. I am filled with deep content.

Having moments like these to stop, reflect, and take a deep breath amidst life’s rapid pace is refreshing. I love listening to children play and watching them happily create igloo’s and snow castles. This brings me a feeling of peace. In the last couple of days, a winter storm front caused closures of businesses and schools, giving us all the opportunity to slow down and draw in our community. The first day of snow fall my children had early release from school and within an hour there was several inches of snow. The kids excitedly played outside while I prepared lunch with one of my neighbors. We picked up on the excitement with laughter and great conversation in between putting on and pulling off snow gear for our children. By the end of the evening we had 3 other sets of neighbors with all of our children gathering in our living room chatting, sipping, and nibbling on snacks. It was warm, cozy, friendly and reminded me of how essential gathering our community is to our feeling of belonging.

What if we took a deep breath even without the prompting of snowy days and reflect on ways we are community for each-other? I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that I have shared with my Team at Peninsula Natural Health Center that captures our heart in the way we serve our community. This quote is by Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries that serves people with developmental disabilities.

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
― Jean Vanier, 



One of the aspects of my vocation I love the most is seeing patients for their own unique beauty. The objectivity that comes in patient care is a gift given when we take the time as healers to heal ourselves. When we do for ourselves what we ask our patients to do, we too can experience health and wellness while being an example of walking the walk; a very powerful example. I often use vulnerability, as described so beautifully by Brene Brown in her book, Daring Greatly, to help my patient see that I too am on my own health journey. I often say, “I am also listening to my own advice so that I can also be well.” This is usually delivered with an understanding smile saying, “I know, I also struggle. I am not perfect. I am working on it.”

This brings me to a story about the beauty I see within my neighbor. My neighbor is part of a forward thinking team of three Nationally Certified teachers and one principal who have developed a curriculum called School Turn Around. This curriculum helps children who have been among the lowest scoring on standardized tests to being among the highest within 2-3 years. These children usually display symptoms that are a result of abuse, neglect, and poverty and what’s worse have been shamed for their behavior in reaction to their circumstances. She and her team advocate for these children and understand that their behavior is a symptom rather than labeling them as “bad” children. They are naturally reacting to the huge lack of basic needs such as described by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs like safe shelter, food and clothing. She and her Team strongly encourage other teaching professionals to not be apathetic but to be understanding and knowledgeable in working with these children. This approach helps to create an environment that facilitates the highest capacity for learning. In understanding the stress response and our nervous systems affects on stress hormones, this approach makes complete medical sense. As my dear neighbor and her team have demonstrated time and time again, despite severe circumstances, these children can learn and do learn. They do have an opportunity for hope for a different future than their present circumstances dictate. They do have the capacity to design and not default their life when given the tools and the compassion/passion of a small group of very committed teachers. This is truly preventative medicine!
I love to see the beauty within my patients even when they do not yet see their own magnificent self. I love the work my neighbor and her Team are doing with recognizing the beauty within these children who have not been given some of the most basic needs and do not further deny these children the skills to possibly change their own trajectories. The other day my neighbor stepped out of her car after school wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt that said “…yet”. We are all working on our “…yet” in recognizing our own beauty within.
In Heath,
Anna Colombini, ND