Lessons from My Mom on a Life Well Led
On Sunday, my sister and I set out on a hike with our 76-year-old mother: a trail that’s chock full of log bridges, steep inclines, unstable and eroded trail sides, and lots of roots and unpredictable terrain. At the beginning of the hike, we waited for a woman half my mom’s age to finish crossing one of these bridges. Wearing an expression of sheer terror, the woman gripped the railing, repeatedly voicing her fear of heights, and cautiously sidestepped her way across. A concerned friend closely accompanied her to protect against a fall into a rocky stream 15 feet below. Moments later, my mom nimbly scaled the high-stepped entry point and strode across the log without hesitation.
What’s the key to my mom’s high level of vitality? Community well-being. Sure, she does all the basics: eats her fruits and veggies, gets her 10,000 steps on most days, manages her stress – but what fuels her is her sense of community.
Since moving to Bend, Oregon 10 years ago, my mom is thriving more than ever before. She runs a nonprofit called VolunteerConnect, plays tennis regularly with a consistent group, sings in a community chorus, participates in neighborhood gatherings, and has friends of all ages. Women our age and younger rave about “how cool” she is and “what a great mentor” she is. And, a few months ago, she was named Bend’s “Woman of the Year.”
My mom reflects what the research shows – and what we already intuitively know. Well-being, and even health, is much more than a sum of physical risk factors. It’s about fully thriving in life. And, as my mom so clearly demonstrates, feeling part of one’s community is not just good for others; it’s good for our health.
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