With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I would like to share a true story with you that I felt is very relevant to the upcoming holiday.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s there was a group of immigrants from Southern Italy that settled their community in a small town in Pennsylvania and later called it Roseto. They were a very family oriented community and shared very cohesive community relationships. They lived in multi-generational homes with grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, kids, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and so on. Family was one of the most important aspects of their life.
Dr. Stewart Wolf, a professor and head of medicine at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine at the time, had come down to the Poconos to enjoy his vacation home one day and met with a local doctor from Roseto. The doctor expressed how he felt that the people of Roseto were so healthy and that Roseto was somehow one of the healthiest towns to live in. They had half the rate of heart disease than that of surrounding communities! In general, the people of Roseto just didn’t get sick the way other people in other communities did and the doctor could not understand why.
Dr. Wolf became very interested in learning why this community had such a low rate of heart disease so he brought in other doctors and began to study the people of Roseto. They looked at their diet and learned that they ate lots of meatballs fried in lard, pizza, and pasta. They also loved to indulge in generous amounts of wine and most of them were smokers. So it wasn’t their diet that was saving them from heart disease…
The doctors began to look at the people of Roseto’s DNA by tracing back to their origin. They studied other immigrants who had come to other parts of the United States from the same location in Southern Italy to see how well their health was but their health was the same as everybody else and the people of Roseto still seemed to outshine other communities so it couldn’t possibly be their DNA.
The community also had very hard lives with rigorous long hours of hard manual labor and low incomes. So how is it that the people of Roseto had such low heart disease rates and disease?
The study concluded that the community never got heart disease because no one was ever lonely. The people of Roseto had such a strong foundation of family cohesion and support that it didn’t matter how hard a work day was, how much wine they consumed, or how many meatballs they ate. After a long work day, they would come home to family. When mom was sick, grandma would babysit and cook some soup. When the elderly needed a hand, there was always someone there for support. No one ever had to worry that they were alone because there was always someone there to help when needed. There was a constant sense of security and safety within the community but most of all there was a monumental flow of love, support, and connection.
I have heard this story quite often in my studies and I just love it so much.
It is a strong reminder that health is so much more than just nutrition or physical exercise. When a person is lonely, it is so easy to over eat or become depressed. When a person lacks love and support, it is easy to go straight into a “fight or flight” response and end up in a chronic state of stress. Stress then wreaks havoc on our health by crippling our nervous system, disrupting our digestive system, and damaging our heart.
When you look at the people of Roseto and how they were able to maintain longevity through community, it really is such a beautiful story. Community is natural and necessary to how we live our lives.
With the Thanksgiving holiday being this week, of course it is important to be grateful and thankful for all that we have but I also want to remind everyone how important it is to get together with family and friends. We often times get so wrapped up in our work, school, or other chores that we face on a daily basis and forget to let loose and enjoy the people that make up our community. Maybe even reach out to someone who you might think is going to be alone on this holiday and invite them to join your community of family and friends. No one should ever have to feel alone. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful for all that we have and the people we love. So indulge in your favorite thanksgiving feasts, indulge in laughter and love with people that make up your community, and indulge in some delicious red wine! Have an amazing Thanksgiving everyone!
No one should ever have to feel alone. What are some ways that you can love and support others in your community? Please share! I’d love to hear your feedback!