Un pour tous, tous pour un

Three musketeers

I learned, early on, the rallying call of Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagan, "un pour tous, tous pour un." It shaped my sense of justice and solidarity.  And lately it has been echoing in my mind as I wonder about loneliness and lack of connections between people.

It all started after hearing that last year, members of the Vancouver Community Foundation set out to find what issues residents felt they should be focusing on.   They expected to see poverty, homelessness and affordable housing at the top of the list of issues to address.  What they found out, however, did not match their expectation.  Vancouverites said they were experiencing more social isolation and consequently becoming increasingly indifferent to one another. Last month, The Globe and Mail published a series of articles focusing on living alone.  It pointed out that there are now more one-person households in Canada than those populated by couples with children.  To live alone does not mean that one is inevitably lonely, nor does living with at least one other person automatically leads to greater connection.  Health studies done on singles in different age-groups, however, indicate that they, more often than not, experience health problems which are connected to loneliness. Health experts are now arguing that loneliness is as damaging to our health as smoking. They point out that loneliness is tied to high blood pressure, inflammation, problems with learning and memory as well as depression. In fact, some experts call loneliness a "hidden killer" and an "epidemic" in modern society. Our lives, however, may not only be shortened by lack of meaningful relationships with our neighbours or other community members.  The growing distance between economic groups is also a factor which is negatively impacting us, as British researcher Richard Wilkinson skillfully points out in this Ted video.

What can we do to curtail these trends?  How do we support one another in building strong connections?  How do we reduce the economic disparities among groups? I see food as a natural connector between us.   Studies on  community gardening illustrate that while many acquire a plot in order to grow their own food, they usually decide to stay because of the relationships they make through the garden. As our tag line indicates,  Nourish seeks to promote "belonging through growing, cooking and enjoying food."  Bringing people together to cook, grow, share food can initiate new and meaningful connections.  Creating opportunities for advocacy, around poverty and the food system, can also ignite new opportunities for greater equity over the long term.  Tall order, no doubt, but by bringing people together through meaningful work, I believe we can make a huge difference.