Posted in connections, differences, mental health, mindset, socializing, storytelling, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Statistics vs. actual people

Individual stories are where real emotional power lies.

I mean, that 3,000 people were killed is quite something.

That millions were killed in WWII is staggering.

They’re numbers. They’re big numbers. They’re easy to wield, hard to comprehend.

“A single death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”

Stories? Those are where power lies. Not because it’s not sad to lose thousands of people at once, but because stories are where we connect.

That’s why there are transcriptions of last phone messages from 18 years ago.

That’s why a group (or more than one, possibly) is putting together the story of each individual person we lost in the terrorist attacks in 2001.

That’s why Anne Frank’s diary is so compelling.

That’s why we don’t interview people who are Other.

When we hear someone’s story and are open to it, we connect with our shared humanity. There are parts of their story that could be our story. It touches us. (Sometimes a story touches us despite our best efforts to stay closed. Those are the best.)

So … listen to people. Especially people who are different than you. Listen to their story. Connect with them. Share your humanity.

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, physical health, socializing, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Why it’s hard

We have too much physical stuff, too much emotional stuff, too much junk to eat, not enough exercise or sleep or meaningful connections with people.

Because—

Society values and promotes

  • being busy
  • being stressed
  • being underslept
  • fast food
  • large portions
  • cheap everything
  • convenient (to accommodate busy)
  • sitting
  • reactive medicine over preventative
  • pills over natural
  • social isolation

But we are society. It’s not an “other” thing. It is us.

We can push back. We can vote with our dollars (and with our votes). We can choose to swim upstream. We can choose what we buy and what we eat and how we spend time and with whom we spend time. We can choose what we say yes to and what we reject.

Our current path is not sustainable.

Who’s in?

Posted in food, gratitude, mindset, socializing

Trying new foods

When I moved to Arizona 16 years ago, I was a pretty conservative food consumer. I didn’t eat many foreign foods (Americanized or not). Some Polish (see: weird last name heritage), some Italian (see: married to the Pole), Chinese as long as it came in one of those highly-recognizable paper boxes. Tacos.

In grad school, I had friends whose palates were more adventurous than mine. They took me to many types of ethnic* restaurants: Ethiopian, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Lebanese, Indian, Greek.

My world expanded incredibly in those two years. I distinctly remember the first time I had a piece of avocado, now a delicious and luxurious staple in my diet. (I also remember going back East once, going to a grocery store, and asking an employee if they carried guacamole. “That’s that green stuff?”)

In the years since then, despite my options becoming limited through vegetarianism, I’ve continued to be introduced to new foods (and am more adventurous with what I’ll cook at home as well).

And I’ve paid forward “come with me to this amazing restaurant and I’ll teach you what I know about their menu and food.”

Walking alone into a restaurant serving an entirely unknown cuisine is much more intimidating than going with someone who knows what they’re doing. (Except that I can’t help with the meat dishes.)

I’ve introduced many friends to Ethiopian (Cafe Lalibela), Thai (Thai Basil), and Indian at an assortment of places. We’re lucky to be in a region with so many amazing foods. I’m grateful to have friends who will come with me to places they’ve never been to eat food they’ve never tried.

These foods are so good. Very different if you’re a meat-and-potatoes kind of person. But tasty.

Beyond seemingly endless restaurant options, there are also a few phenomenal Asian markets, a giant Indian market (with a restaurant inside), a huge Middle Eastern market (with counter service inside) and several smaller Middle Eastern/Mediterranean places that are half and half.

And these are only the places I happen to know about within a 10-ish-mile radius of my house.

So glad to have had my world opened by friends. So fun to open others’.

 

*I don’t like describing restaurants serving foreign food—Americanized or not—as “ethnic.” Everything is ethnic. Those places are simply foreign. I used the word ethnic there just to be able to make this footnote.

Posted in connections, mental health, mindset, socializing, thoughtfulness

What is our responsibility?

People need people to thrive. Numerous studies in the last decade point to social networks as a critical variable for longevity, and for general functionality and thriving.

As both a teacher and a parent, I see articles and videos about special needs kids, and to teach your kids to be kind and to be friends with them.

Kindness is reasonable. Getting to know someone who seems different than you is reasonable. But if you get to know someone a little and really just don’t care for them, are you going to be friends with them because they’re different?

As we get older, we don’t generally spend social time with people we don’t like (unless maybe we’re related to them). It seems we don’t even spend time with people we do like! I don’t know anyone (that I know of) who is friends with someone they don’t like just to provide a friend.

It’s not limited to special needs people. We have an epidemic of loneliness and isolation right now, causing or feeding record numbers of people with depression.

Where is the balance? Whose responsibility is it to be the social network for people who don’t have one?

We, collectively, can’t even agree on helping people who need money, which is (or seems like it should be) less complicated than helping with social-emotional support.

What do you think? Whose responsibility is it to provide the village, now that villages are gone?

 

Posted in connections, parenting, socializing

“Can you play?”

The Kid had lots of energy the other night and wanted to play with other kids. It was too late in the evening to try to call around to see if any of his friends were available.

(This is a huge disadvantage to him not going to the neighborhood school—his school friends don’t live around here. Another story for another day.)

“You can go across the street and knock on the door and see if the kid there wants to play.” (They’ve played before when they and the kids next door happened to all be outside, but there’s been no doorbell-ringing.)

He looked at me like I was nuts.

“That’s what we did when we were kids. We just went to friends’ houses and knocked to see if they could play.”

He seemed unsure (and was completely uncomfortable doing it), but he wanted to play badly enough that he decided to go for it.

I went to the window to watch.

Before he made it across the street, the boy came out. A few minutes later, The Kid came back and said they’re riding their bikes to the park and can we go?

And so it went. (The park is far enough away that parents chaperoned.)

They planned to play again the next day. “When I’m ready in the morning, I’m just going to go ring their doorbell.”

He did go ring the doorbell the next morning, and they did play for a while. Later in the day, the neighbor came and rang our bell to see if The Kid could come over.

Feels like a little piece of the so-called “good old days” is back.