Faraway: Get out of your world
Take the Money
There's an island off the southern coast of Japan called Kyushu. More centenarians live there than most other places. Scientists have studied for decades the life styles of the inhabitants in an effort to determine what keeps them ticking so long. Conclusions are varied.
Some studies focused on diet, of course. How often do we hear news stories about the latest findings on a newly "discovered" miracle food that will make us thin, happy and ageless?
Japanese people are famous for their regular intake of fresh vegetables, fruits and seafood. But the researchers couldn't latch onto that as the one-size-fits-all solution because they kept running into people who didn't eat vegetables at all, mostly ate meat, drank sake and smoked cigarettes. They found this one centenarian who had outlived his son by abstaining from fruits and vegetables and taking up smoking at the age of 70.
They thought there might be something about coming from good stock, as they say, but genetics didn't play enough of a role in solving the mystery.
However, there was one factor that kept surfacing - social support. Once a month, the villagers would assemble at the community center to have dinner together. On a table in the center of the room each attendee would toss their leftover cash from that month into a basket. At the end of the evening, after everyone had heard how one another was getting by, the group would determine who amongst them had the greatest need. That person would go home with the basket of money.
There's so much to love about this little story. Community support like this can only happen when neighbors spend time with one another, sharing a meal, listening to one another's stories. To me, this is a great example of a social service program that works. Rather than show up at the welfare office to fill out a bunch of forms and be interviewed by a stranger who knows nothing about your situation, your family, your occupation, your skills, your aspirations - this little village on Kyushu has it together in more ways than one. And by maintaining their social connections, they are creating a healthy and vibrant community where individuals can live long and prosper.