You deserve an offline community.

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It wasn’t until I heard the words “Rare Disease” in reference to my six-month-old that it hit me.

I needed someone. Not a “like.” Not a virtual hug. I needed a friend, someone warm to wrap their arms around me, and not figuratively. I needed more support than an online community could provide as I tried to navigate the dark and scary waters my family ship found ourselves sailing through.

I have lots of friends. I have followers. I have virtual cheerleaders. And I LOVE them. They stand in my corner and cheer me on and have propelled my small business in a way that I’m sure wouldn’t have been without them. They CHOOSE to be there, and I’m grateful for that.

But sometimes real life hurts too much to find comfort within the confines of a 9x9 square grid. Sometimes condolences need to be shared in person, not in an inbox.

Someone I’ve known and loved for a long time loaded up her toddler into her vehicle and drove nearly eight hours round trip to be with me the weekend we received my son’s diagnosis. She showed up, baby in tow, ready to make meals and drink wine and just spend the weekend processing with me. And though it was a time of questions and uncertainty, it was also a beautiful weekend. We laughed and made new recipes and chased two busy little boys (and two wild pups) throughout my tiny house.

I’ve found it’s not only the pain that we miss in doing life with one another in person…it’s also the joy.

May we never resolve to settle for a temporary community, leaving as quickly as we came at the minimizing of a screen. May we be people who never forget what it feels like to hold the hand of a grieving friend. To wipe away a tear. To feel the vibrations welling deep within, erupting into fits of belly laughter. To revel in the warmth of honest conversation around a dinner table. To run and chase still small, frolicking feet. To dream the kinds of dreams that ambition can barely contain. To just show up, to be the presence that confirms “you are not alone in this. You don’t have to walk this alone.” This is what it truly means to be in community.



Six Ways to Cultivate Authentic Community Away From Screens


1) Take someone a meal. Some of my most meaningful conversations have happened as a result of the warmth and generosity of a friend over a meal brought during a time of need. It doesn’t have to be as a result of a loss or a recovery, maybe it’s just Tuesday and you haven’t seen each other in a while. Meals at home lead to more opportunities for honest conversations.


2) You know that “Internet Friend” you met on Instagram? The one you found through your shared love of natural light, clean aesthetic, and Bachelor Mondays? The one who is always standing in your online corner, cheering you on? You should meet her in person. Invite her for coffee and ask how you can support her small business outside of social media.


3) Spring is coming and we’ve all been stuck inside behind our devices for way too long. When the nice weather arrives, let’s commit to getting outside. Invite a friend, or a group of friends, to share in a picnic at a local park. You bring the wine, I’ll bring the charcuterie, K?


4) Have you met your neighbors? You know, the people who LIVE next to you? Have you checked on them recently? Asked what their joys or their struggles are looking like this season? Write them a handwritten note and deliver it in person (maybe with a nice potted plant or some vegan brownies from that great place down the street). Let them know you’re right next door, and that you’d love to communicate with them more than through the “Next Door” app.


5) Choose THREE friends that you haven’t seen recently, but speak with often on social media. Write them a letter and stick it in the mail. Leave them with a call to action at the end that requires a response. You now have not one, but THREE pen pals to invest in away from screens and apps and inboxes!


6) In all the time we spend looking down, we often miss things we would have seen had we been looking up. The next time you’re out, put your phone away and pay attention to your surroundings. Is there someone eating a meal alone that you could invite to sit with you at lunch? If your widower neighbor walks alone in your neighborhood daily, as if you can join him one day. Compliment your barista at your local coffee shop, especially if it’s morning rush and she looks frazzled. Remind those around you that they are more important than your device by giving them a moment of your time via eye contact and affirmation.


7) If you get the sense that someone you know is struggling and needs you, don't ask questions...JUST GO! You will never know what it means to have a friend physically show up for you in a time of need until YOU are the person needing someone.

 I'm Nikki Santerre, owner and lead photographer of Nikki Santerre Photography. I'm a self proclaimed "Heirloom Curator," a fine art hybrid photographer who travels across the country to document and celebrate marriage and the intimacy of motherhood.  If I'm not behind my film camera, you can find me writing for some of my favorite publications, educating photographers, advocating for families struggling with fertility, or spending time with my husband and our precious miracle baby, Mason.

I'm Nikki Santerre, owner and lead photographer of Nikki Santerre Photography. I'm a self proclaimed "Heirloom Curator," a fine art hybrid photographer who travels across the country to document and celebrate marriage and the intimacy of motherhood.  If I'm not behind my film camera, you can find me writing for some of my favorite publications, educating photographers, advocating for families struggling with fertility, or spending time with my husband and our precious miracle baby, Mason.

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