It’s a new year – insert here your favorite motivational phrase or positive saying associated with the coming year. Likely it invokes the spirit of beginning anew, the slate wiped clean as 300-some-odd days lay in front of us again for something really good to happen.
In this new year, as your mayor and as your health officer, we’d like to suggest that “really good something” be more social connectedness in our community. Whether it’s helping each other or neighbors, joining or being a part of something, or giving time to worthwhile causes, being more connected to one another is protective and can help overcome risks for
In 2000, Robert Putnam, an American political scientist, published “Bowling Alone,” which introduced many to the concept of “social capital” – the essence of which is that social interactions and connectedness are essential. Helen Keller’s quote captures the meaning quite well: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
Social capital reflects a few basic elements, such as trust, connection and participation, to create group cohesion. It’s what binds us to others, both emotionally and socially. It could be our neighborhood, a social circle, a running club, or a faith group. Maybe it’s being alumni of a university or being a “12th player.”
Social capital, combined with selflessness, are essential elements of a well-functioning society. For example, if you find yourself stuck in a snow berm, could you expect someone to stop and help you? Maybe you dropped your wallet in the grocery checkout, would you ever see it again? What if you wanted to build a garden, but didn’t have the space and skills? Would your neighbors help build a common space where all could benefit? And what about shoveling an elderly neighbor’s sidewalk? When there’s a lot of social capital, you’d expect to see positive outcomes in these examples.
Communities with strong social capital are found to be more fair, more just – in other words, there are fewer inequities among its members. This also means healthier people; the greater the amount of equity, the better all aspects of health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Good health allows an individual to achieve his or her potential, leading to a greater sense of optimism, personal satisfaction and quality of life.
This suggests the health of our community, both personally and collectively, could be strongly affected by investing in its social capital. And the good news? Using the word “investing” here does not mean we’re asking you to part with your money. We want you to invest in your personal and community’s social capital by getting involved. Last year, 20,555 volunteers donated 123,000 hours of volunteer work during Spokane Gives Month, and we can do so much more.
Give of yourself, whether it’s your time, your company, or your friendship. Wish someone a good day and a happy New Year. Get to know your neighbors. Help someone. Volunteer. Find an organization, a neighborhood association or a city activity. Extend your hands to assist others who may not be as fortunate. “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
David Condon is the 44th th mayor of the city of Spokane; he is serving the final year of his second term in that position and was the first mayor to be re-elected to the job in 40 years.
Dr. Bob Lutz is a board-certified family medicine physician who is currently the health officer for Spokane Regional Health District and Asotin County Public Health.
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