Recently I read an article about factors they help predict the quality and length of life. It got me thinking.
One of the most important factors was being connected to others. We need friends, family. Even contact with strangers was vital. Do you talk to the cashier? The waitress? The lady behind you in line at the bank? Evidently, the more we feel connected to others, the more we thrive. We are social animals. Sure, I knew that but I was surprised that if actually effects our health and life span.
Then I read about a man that was falsely convicted and sent to jail. After his release he became an activist. Did he protest his false imprisonment? Nope. The prejudice that probably affected his conviction? No. He was raising awareness about the cruelty and mental pain caused by solitary confinement. It appears that cutting us off from others can be one of the worst things for humans to endure. Prisoners and hostages that survive are the ones that find ways to survive this crippling isolation.
We know that married people live longer. Sick and elderly shut-ins seem to wither. Dogs are pack animals. Just like us, they need to be connected to thrive. Is there anything as sad as a dog tied up with no attention or love? You can see the pain in their eyes.
We need each other. Not in a “friends are nice to have” kind of way. I mean that we are hard wired to be intertwined with others for us to thrive.
I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately. I stumbled across this classic piece by John Donne. Even back in 1624, people knew that connectedness is vital for human health and survival. I had never read the actual poem before. As a pharmacist, I never had the chance to take liberal arts. I was so moved by the thought that this guy in the 1600s was thinking about the same things as I was as I drove down the NJ turnpike. Kind of cool.
”No Man Is an Island” by John Donne
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.
I love the line where he says “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved with mankind.” It made me think that when one person in society is downtrodden, it effects us all. It puts a dent in our society and our souls. They already had this figured out in 1624. We need to be connected.
We are in this all together. The homeless man at the stoplight may have played on your kid’s baseball team or be your cousin’s boy. We are all connected. Roll down your window. Offer him the bottle of water in your console or the protein bar in you purse. If you see someone being bullied or mistreated, open your mouth or at least turn on your phone.
If I could make a perfect world, I would totally base it on Wawa. (If you are not familiar, Wawa is a Jersey convince store/gas station) At Wawa people ALWAYS hold the door for you, even if they have to give you a few seconds to get to the door. We make eye contact and say Thank You. We smile and make small talk with the cashier. The coffee is fresh and the bathroom is clean. When I can’t reach that bottle of milk, someone leans in a gets it for me without asking. The radio is always tuned to oldies. People wait quietly at the Lottery machine and put their ATM receipt in the trash basket.
At Wawa, we are all just neighbors waiting together for our hoagies.
We are equals.
We are connected.
I think John Donne would have loved Wawa.