We all have needs. We need to avoid harm, move toward good stuff, and have positive connections to others. That’s how we’re wired. There are lots more specific needs within those general ones, such as the need for food, shelter, joy, individuality, purpose, respect, and on and on. How we meet those essentials are as unique and varied as each of us.
It’s easy to confuse what we need with our means of satisfying it. There are many ways of meeting any given need. For example, we need to clothe ourselves. That does not mean that we need to have the latest fashion. Having the latest fashion, however, may function to meet both our need to clothe ourselves and our need for self-expression.
In another example, we all need some level of order in our lives. Some of us have routines for what we do when, some keep our homes very clean, and still others can tolerate a messy house, but make sure their cars are clean.
If we can’t follow our preferred strategy, we can still find healthy ways to meet our needs. It takes adjustment. If we normally straighten the kitchen completely after every use, hosting visitors for a few days may disrupt those habits. So, what do we do with our need for order?
We can try to insist on having our guests follow our usual routines, but that is unlikely to succeed. We have to be flexible in our strategies for fulfilling our requirements. It might be more reasonable to get everyone to agree the kitchen will be clean and straightened at the end of the day. That way, we can have some order while still enjoying the company of our guests.
Of course, some universal human needs feel more important to us than to others. The freedom to make our own way independently may be a guiding need for one, while following group norms may be supremely important to another. That doesn’t mean we don’t all need both to fit-in and express our autonomy, just that one may usually be accentuated. In our diverse country, with the vast majority of us descended from immigrants, there are many cultural differences in what needs are emphasized.
The smoke and growing fires in our little patch of the world are calling into question some of our usual ways of attending to our needs. Some of us who are used to being autonomous may need help. It’s important for those of us facing that situation to take a few moments and consider just what would be most helpful to us – temporary shelter, guidance about what to take in case of evacuation, or perhaps childcare while we take care of other details. In order to avoid harm, we must accept help and we must communicate our needs clearly.
Likewise, those of us who want to help should listen carefully to what others ask for, rather than forcing on them what we think they need. It is so easy for us to try and take control of things, when what is usually necessary is to help others find their own way to what they need – a much more challenging goal. By being sensitive to the needs of ourselves and others, we can make the tough reality of smoke and fire into an opportunity to strengthen our community.