“On loneliness and community” – Guest blog by Aaron Shapiro

Aaron doesn’t need a whole lot of introduction. He received the positivity award today because he’s the kind of dude  you immediately want to get to know, and he in turn immediately gives that attention right back. He’s a kind man with a big heart and we couldn’t be happier to have him as part of the NP_BAL crew. Aaaron, thanks for always being a bright spot even on the gloomiest of mornings. If you don’t know Aaron, read up and then find the man…we promise your day will be just that much sunnier. 

No, this is not his real hair. Yes, it is fantastic.

Cigna just released a report that suggests nearly half of Americans feel lonely sometimes or always. This puts loneliness at epidemic levels in the United States. Yes, I just started an NP blog post with a statistic. I’m wrapping up a Master’s in Public Health, so I have no clue how to start a piece of writing anymore unless it’s with epidemiology.

As my one year in Baltimore comes to an end, I’ve been doing some self-reflection, and NP is a big part of that. Before I first showed up at NP last summer, I hadn’t run since I was forced to run the mile in high school. That was honestly my least favorite day of the year. Running was misery.

But I’d been seeing my friend Sam get tagged in NP photos on facebook for years, and everyone in his pictures from the San Diego tribe always looked… happy. This baffled me. They were running. Yet, smiles?!

I moved to Baltimore during a time where I was tired of my solitary workout routines. And while you might think my reflection of the year gone by would focus on the fact that NP has gotten me to run my first two 5ks, the Krispy Kreme Challenge, my first 10k, and my first sprint triathlon (this coming weekend!), the cardiovascular health benefits are hardly the first things that come to mind.

Instead, I find myself reflecting on how lucky I am to have found a community of such kind human beings.

I grew up in a fairly liberal Jewish community. We had traditions (Friday night family dinners and candle lightings on holidays). We had clothing to unify us (kippahs on our heads and shawls called talit). We had parts of our lives that were routine and special occasions to socialize together. These consistent aspects of my life, these people, that community, gave me a sense of belonging.

But community doesn’t always stay the way it is for all of us as we grow up. After I graduated college, I had an amazing conversation with one of those cool, young, hip rabbis about ways to capture the amazing communal benefits of our culture without the religious exclusivity. We failed to come up with anything real. We were frustrated in our failure because we knew – even before this recent Cigna report – that loneliness is rampant in today’s world. And while it’s not a silver bullet, the sense of belonging and meaningful relationships that community can create for people is likely the best weapon we’ve got.

I, and many others, struggle with loneliness on a way too frequent basis. Especially in adulthood where I haven’t lived in the same home for more than a year since 2007. We find ourselves questioning the strength and genuineness of our relationships. We find it difficult to make new friends.

But you all have done an extraordinary job, whether intentional or not, fighting one of our country’s least talked about epidemics. You have created traditions, and clothing to unify us, and routines, and special occasions to socialize together. You have created community.

As I reflect back on my one year with my Baltimore tribe, I am incapable of expressing my gratitude for the extraordinary humans who welcomed me in. And my transition is made that much easier as I have a new tribe in Providence to look forward to meeting.

So thank you for fighting loneliness. Thank you for the enthusiastic welcome on day one, for making me feel like you genuinely wanted me to come back, for the extra tagged rainbow shirt when I hadn’t yet known to bring my own, for checking in to see how I was doing during every social lap, for yelling across the field “you’ve got this” when I showed signs of slowing down, for the hugs, for the high fives, for the pacing, for the beer during a rough week, for the celebratory dancing, for the familial hello in a random café, for the “boo ya” on my birthday, for not judging, for the encouragement,  for the positivity, for the kindness, and for making me feel like I belonged.

You are all special humans.

 

Thank you for making the world brighter… even at 6:30am in the middle of winter.

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One Reply to ““On loneliness and community” – Guest blog by Aaron Shapiro”

  1. Amazing blog!!! Today was my first
    November Project experience and I’m already feeling apart of a kind and welcoming community. It’s really special to see all the lives you’re touching, and giving us a reason to get out of bed on a Wednesday morning. This blog really touched home and I’m blessed to have seen the Facebook page and scope it out for a A YEAR before making the plunge to officially try it out.

    Keep up the great work!!

    Nancy

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