International Impact

There is an old adage that our world seems to get smaller and smaller.  Certainly with the advent of social media, many of us have been able to develop, maintain or enhance international relationships with simple posts and updates on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms.

I have been blessed over the past couple of years to be invited to share ideas and build relationships in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, Sweden and the like.  This coming fall I will be presenting in Rome, Italy, and due to schedule conflicts, had to turn down an offer to visit Maputo, Mozambique, from a Mozambican intern we had the pleasure of working with this past fall.

In all of these international relationships and visits, I have been sharing information, strategies, and approaches on building social connections and the importance of social capital.  These invitations really speak to the universality of the message.  That is, it doesn't matter where you live, or the culture or politics of your setting, enhanced relationships will make your life better!

It also underscores that if people are devalued or off set from the culture due to a disability (or any other social variable) they are at serious risk of social isolation.  And no matter where you live, some people live in social isolation from other members of their community.

So lets work to share ideas, and reach out to people in our communities who are left behind. Get to know your neighbors and as you build social capital with these new people, everyone wins.

Attitudes - How Did Yours Develop?

I am a change agent.  In fact, most of us are (or can be)!  Through our relationships, even though it might not be our intent, we begin to influence others with our words, actions, and behaviors.  This impact is defined by sociologists as "social influence theory," and it has unfolded in your life more than you know.

Since the time of our youth, as we began to understand things, we were influenced first by our parents, then by our siblings, and then by our friends and relationships in the broader community. It is probably safe to say that most every attitude or assumption you hold today is because of someone else who influenced you in that theme.  This is not to say that we do not have independent perceptions, but that most of the things we think, and then advocate, have been planted in us by someone else.

Think about it; the notions you hold initiated with something you heard, read, saw, or seemed to be embodied by someone you respect.  And once these attitudes get framed, we often then look to confirm them, or seek out others who hold similar views.  Sometimes, when you encounter a person you respect, who has a different view than you puts you in a dilemma.  Either you need to begin to rethink your viewpoint (driven by the respect you hold for that person).  Or, you begin to distance yourself from this person who thinks differently than you.

So, stop for a minute now and think about the attitudes you harbor about things around us. Where did these attitudes come from?  When you look a little deeper, are you so sure these attitudes are correct, or inline with your values in life?  More, are you willing to change an attitude if there might be an inconsistency?

Changing the World

For most of my career, some 47 years, I have been a disability rights advocate.  This charge was instilled in me as a youngster when I would witness how some people treated my cousin Carrie, who happened to have Downs Syndrome.  She was often made fun of by other kids, and had limited opportunities, certainly far less than most of us had growing up in the blue collared town of McKees Rocks, PA.

Over the many years that followed my graduation from college, we disability rights advocates saw many gains unfold.  In the 70's we had "Right to Education," Housing, Transportation, and Vocational gains.  Through the 80's and 90's we pushed for broader civil rights and were able to pass the "American's With Disabilities Act," (ADA).  Know that all of these efforts, while not creating a true parity, were gains nonetheless.

Along with these regulatory changes came some funding; never really enough, but still helpful in the effort.  In a country as wealthy, and as abundant as the United States, there is no reason that people with disabilities, some 60 million Americans, should be denied the right to opportunity.

But as our country has made a strong right turn in attitude as witnessed by our last election, and now with a president who lost the popular vote, but somehow seems to think he has a mandate, we know that the strides made in disability rights (and most other important cultural issues) are now at risk of being changed, de-funded, or eliminated altogether.  

It is time we now come together to protect the many critical human strides we have made, and to safeguard that all people have opportunities to live the American dream.  Hubert Humphry, the respected Senator from Minnesota, and presidential candidate once said, "the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children, those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly, and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped."

I See You

I have been doing some research to prepare for a training session I will be doing and am re-reading a profound book by Peter Senge, "The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook."  Senge is an iconic management/leadership guru and his 1990 book, "The Fifth Discipline," was (and continues to be) a "must-read" book in business circles.  In it he describes "learning organizations" and the Fieldbook, which came out shortly thereafter, offers exercises and strategies toward this end.

The book starts with an observation of a South African greeting used by the Natal tribes that caught my eye; and since I have written about the importance of greetings in building social capital, I thought it deserves a comment in this blog.

When tribal members meet they say: "Sawu Bona," which literally means, "I see you."  The tribal response then is, "Sikhona," which means, "I am here."  In this culture the order of exchange is critical since until you see me, I do not exist.

I love this simple notion.  We see and greet many people in the course of our days, but often don't think about the critical aspects of using our greetings to signal each others importance.  It is helpful to remember that our greetings initiate the first steps in building social capital.  How we greet people matters.

So the next time you connect with someone, take a moment to really see them.  This intention might help grow or strengthen the relationship.

As an Advocate, How do you use Social Media

Often when I am invited to do a presentation, the person introducing me will ask the audience to turn off, or silence their cell phones.  I appreciate the courtesy, but will often reverse this request and ask people to keep their cell phones on; and, if in the course of my presentation, if inspired, to take a photo of a slide I am using, or to post/tweet on social media information they are hearing.

Now most of us these days use some form of social media, and we use these sites to share, or compare, or rant, or recommend.  And, for most of us, there are 3 major platforms that often serve this purpose - Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  Of course there is Instagram, Snapchat, and others, but the 3 mentioned seem to be the most common in my spheres.

For advocates who are looking to promote a cause or situation, it is important to understand how posting something you are hearing at a conference can have the most impact.  In the work I do, I try to use all 3, but there are some key differences we should understand in being Social Media Advocates.  That is, Facebook, which seems to be the most dominant platform, is primarily a social outlet.  This is where we mostly see what people or eating, or birthday photos of a relative, or travel photos from exotic trips.  Certainly posting something informative or instructive works on this platform, but is often lost in the social clutter.

LinkedIn is thought to be a vocational site, where people look to get job or sales leads.  Here people are posting things that promote their business or get people to know their companies or products.  Again, as advocates for some social cause we can use this platform, but again, the message might get caught in the vocational clutter.

This brings us to Twitter.  Certainly any of us reading this post know that the President of the US is a "Twitter addict," using this media most every night to advocate something or another.  Of course most of his Tweets are attacking and put people down, but are still effective in what he is advocating, which seems to be his bully-ism or bias.  For me however, the major thing I like about Twitter is that unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, which mandate that the people you connect with or "friend," agree to accept your connection, Twitter allows you to follow whomever you are interested in hearing from.  This feature, a key difference, makes Twitter, I believe, a more potent advocacy platform.

So two key take-a-ways here - one is get on Twitter and to post about that which you are passionate.  For me, as a disability advocate, I try to post on things that are progressive to the inclusion of all people movement.  The second issue, is to chose to follow those folks that inspire, educate, or share aspects that are instructive to your advocacy role.  On an upcoming blog, I will share with you some of the folks/groups I follow who share items I have found to be helpful in the cause of disability advocacy.

In the meantime, get active on Social Media and share your passions with the world!

The Road to Character

I am reading a book recently released by David Brooks titled, "The Road to Character."  Brooks is well known as a columnist and for his commentary on NPR and the Sunday talk shows.  He usually takes a conservative bent, but with this book he examines the notion of character and it has nothing to do with politics, yet in the current political climate in the United States has everything to do with politics.

He starts the book by looking at the two sides of people, one he calls the "resume side," which focuses on skills, achievements, and things you might boast about.  The other he calls the "eulogy side," which speaks more to your character, the virtues at the core, like kindness, honesty, faithfulness, and other personal dimensions.

The book then profiles some amazing people who are known more for their character, the  "eulogy side," than for their direct achievements.  Brooks explores how they developed their deep character.  Though he never once refers to our current politics, the book seems to scream out the importance of character over accomplishments, integrity over bragging, cooperation over competition.

As I digest the social impact of "The Road to Character," I salute David Brooks for bringing out this critical dimension of character in our development.  In a time when we seem to think that people's accomplishments are the things that make them great, Brooks pushes us to look deeper at people.  He reminds us that in the end it is the virtues of our character that really matter.

If your looking to find the things that really count in life, get a copy of "The Road to Character" and then think!

Being Greeted: The First Element of Belonging

In developing more social capital, the first element to consider is the greeting.  This seems so simple that people rarely consider it, but I had an experience recently that brought this critical aspect to mind.

This past month I was invited to present in Auckland, New Zealand at the Imagine Better Assembly, a forward thinking conference held every other year in that wonderful country.  Given the respect held in New Zealand for the Maori culture, the conference coordinators started the event with an official greeting called a "Powhiri." 

Now the Maori's are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, and the respect held for them is deeply woven into the culture.  The "Powhiri" started with Maori tribal members performing a tradition of greeting the visitors with song, stories, and ceremony.  The tradition ended with each visitor being approached by the tribal members with a formal "hongi," where we touched foreheads and noses, and then took a breath through our noses, symbolizing the fact that we are breathing the same air together.

This ceremony was so profound that it brought tears to my eyes.  To have that kind of greeting, symbolic or otherwise, was deeply touching.  The "hongi" signals a strong respect for the newcomer, and in a simple, yet elegant way, says you are welcomed in my space.

So the next time you encounter a newcomer, regardless of where this might be, think about how you greet them.  More, go out of your way to personally seek out these people you do not know and welcome them into your space.  You might not perform a "hongi" and touch foreheads and noses, but in a way are still breathing the same air.

Someone to Love

Most of you who look at my blog know that our work in disability rights focuses on the importance of relationships and social capital.  We have worked hard to explore this concept, study, create strategies, share ideas, and promote that rehabilitation would be better off to consider the critical nature of social capital.

Part of the challenge in promoting this message, however, is that there is (was) no credible evidence that showed that social isolation was a serious problem in the disability community.  Certainly advocates, family members, and many self-advocates know that loneliness abounds, but the notion had never been adequately examined.  This reality prompted the development of an international coalition we titled, The Interdependence Network, (www.buildingsocialcapital.org) and a focused effort to measure community engagement patterns of people with disabilities.  Using the "Social Capital Benchmarking Survey," developed at Harvard University by Dr. Robert Putnam, we set out to examine this issue.

I am happy to report to you that our work has completed and we have just published our paper in the Canadian Journal of Disability Studies,  The article is titled: "Somewhere to Live, Something to Do, Someone to Love: Examining Levels and Sources of Social Capital Among People with Disabilities."    You can track this paper at:  http://cjds.uwaterloo.ca/index.php/cjds/article/view/317: but it shows conclusively how isolated people with disabilities have become.  In spite of all the excellent work done by agencies and human service providers, the very people we serve are significantly socially isolated.

We are excited that this paper now sets the ground work for the challenging effort of shifting services from micro to macro efforts designed to help people build more relationships in the community, and especially between people with and without disabilities.  So if you have the time, or inclination, take a look at this groundbreaking article and then let me know what you think.  Better yet, join the Interdependence Network and help us promote macro change.  Together, we can change the world.

Facts are Facts

It is unbelievable that in today's world we could even hear someone talk about "alternative facts," let alone from the Oval office.  Most sane people know that the facts are just that, things that are truisms on an issue that is being debated or discussed.  Facts then, should guide a thoughtful and forward thinking society to address or make progress on things that affect us and are important.

I was taken aback recently when I read some facts on social isolation, an issue that I care about in the work we do at our organization, CLASS (www,classcommunity.org).  One of these facts was reported late last year in the NY Times that since 1980's the percentage of American adults who say they are lonely doubled from 20% in 1985 to 40% of people in 2015.  This increase in loneliness is incredibly troubling in a time when we have so many outlets to develop and nurture our relationships.

The second fact, however is even more intense as we now have a better understanding of what loneliness actually does.  Research has shown that isolated people have an increase in: disrupted sleep patterns, altered immune system, higher stress hormones, increased heart disease by 29%, stroke increases by 32%, and a 30% higher risk of dying within a 7 year window.

We know that social isolation is bad for us, and no altered facts can change this phenomena.  To this end, a civil and compassionate society must not just realize these facts, but to do something about it.  Social isolation is worse than smoking and it is time for some national actions designed to address this public health risk.

A Manual For Organizing

Last year, I wrote a book I titled, "The Macro Change Handbook" (LAPublications, 2015).  It was an exploration of organizing and advocating principles pulled from my 45 years in the disability rights movement.  The book looked at not just organizing principles, but examined the elements of power, change, and methods that can promote influencing others.

When I wrote this book, I could never have imagined that the notion of organizing, advocacy, marches, petitions, and other methods of resistance would become mainstream issues; but given the realities we are experiencing today in the United States, where basic human rights and dignities would come under direct assault by our own President, have now made my book almost a must read.

It is sad that this has unfolded in a country where advocates had to fight for civil, disability, women, environmental, and human rights.  All of these movements used advocacy and organizing principles and were successful in helping to create a more just society.  Yet it has and is a reality.

So advocates, and especially you folks who are new to movements, you might want to take a look at the "Macro Change Handbook."  You can track it on my website, at www.lapublishing.com, or at Amazon.  Remember that an organized group will surely be a more successful group.

Change - What Does It Take

I chose a career in Human Services because I wanted to help people be more included in the greater community.  Growing up I witnessed how people treated my cousin Carrie, who had Downs Syndrome, and although she was a natural part of our family, often the greater community members treated her in negative and distantiated ways.  These negative behaviors prompted me into the field.

When I started graduate school of social work at the University of Pittsburgh we talked about being "change agents," and I took the moniker to heart.  Initially, I was taught that the change that was needed for Carrie to be accepted rested more with how she functioned and behaved.   The manifestations of her Downs Syndrome suggested that she needed to learn things to behave more "normally" to fit into the community.

After years of trying this route it became clear to me that the change that was needed did not lie with Carrie, but rested more in the behaviors of the greater community.  This kind of change, we call "macro change," is much more challenging and hard to realize.  It demands a shift in thinking, and moving outside of the box.

This kind of change also starts with an external recognition that seems to defy that which seems clear.  It is captured in a quote I recently saw attributed to Henry Ford.  He said: "The light bulb was not the result of continuous improvement of the candle."  This quote suggests that meaningful change might requires that we move to another platform.

Einstein famously said: "The problems we face today can not be solved with the same level of thinking that created them."  Both of these quotes suggest a paradigm shift from what seems obvious to a better, more evolved place.  People in the greater community see disabilities as the problem, when, in fact, the real problem might be their attitudes.

So the next time you are looking at a problem that needs solved, or a change that needs to occur, look again.  It might be that the solution lie in another place.

Generations - Differences and Similarities

One of my colleagues at CLASS (www.classcommunity.org) attended a recent webinar that explored the unique elements of the various generations, starting with Baby Boomers (1946-1965), the Generation X (1966-1976), Generation Y Millennials (1977-1994), and Generation Z (1995-2012).  The training was to help supervisors understand the generations so that they can provide more informed supervision.

She shared what she was exposed to at our recent Leadership team meeting and I was taken by the information and approach that was shared at the webinar.  The presenters talked about the key things that these generations were exposed to while growing up, and some of the important elements that these generations value.  Some, like Boomers value loyalty, and others. like Millennials, see their private time as important.

The focus of the training was that supervisors could use the elements that staff value to better guide their work; and obviously there is merit to notion.  Still, for me, what was interesting was to explore the common areas of value for each of the 4 generations.  What was common for all the groups was the importance of relationships - that is, regardless of when you were born, or what the key influences of the times, relationships stayed constant.

This is further evidence of the power and potency of social capital.  No matter the swings of war, or peace, or what was happening on the home front, or in in the media; friendships/relationships/connections with other people matter greatly.  Trends come and go, but somethings are constant.

Everyday Leadership

I have been invited to keynote an upcoming conference in Toronto and the topic they want me to address is"leadership."  The group gathering are all upper level folks involved in human services and disability issues and they want to explore ways/means to lead change.  These thoughtful executives are all interested in shifting their program efforts from the classic "micro" focus, to a bigger, more "macro" sense of culture and community change.  It is an area I have been exploring in our work at CLASS (www.classcommunity.org) and my Canadian friends feel an exchange of ideas would be helpful.

Now most of my adult life, both vocationally as well as being a member of many community groups, I have ultimately found myself in leadership positions.  I was program director when I first started at CLASS in 1973, and became the CEO in 1991.  I have held leadership roles in the PTG when our kids were in school, founder and Commissioner of the Human Service Volleyball League, President of most of the Boards of Directors I have served on, Chair of state-wide advisory groups and the like.  I am a student of leadership, reading most of the key books/journal articles/blogs on the topic, and I teach leadership issues at the School of Health and Rehab Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

As I initiated my preparation for our Toronto conference, however, I began to broaden my perspective.  Most people think of leadership as something others do, people who are in charge, or have been elected or selected to lead, and that if you are not in these roles, there is not much that leadership training/reflection can do for you.  But in relooking at the key aspects, this is an erroneous perspective.

All of us, no matter our role or position, can benefit from thinking more about leadership ingredients, or traits; and, if we apply them to everyday life situations, we can be more effective and successful.  Think about these aspects of leadership, reported in a recent edition of the Harvard Business Review, but apply them to any situation you are currently dealing with in your life today:

Good leaders show "learning agility," that is they apply actions from lessons learned.  Good leaders "build and sustain important relationships."  They know the potency of social capital. Good leaders are "realistically optimistic," that is they know ultimate success happens in achievable increments.  Good leaders have a "caring nature."  Good leaders think about being a "host" rather than a "hero."  Lastly, good leaders "listen as much (or more) than they talk."

These aspects are not reserved for the elite, or upper level players - they are all aspects that can make everyday life better, no matter your position or issue.  So, the next time you see something in the paper, or on the bookshelf, or online regarding leadership, take a good look at it.  The information will probably be as important to "everyday leaders" as to the big CEO's or Presidents!

Neighbors - A Measure of Engagement

The holidays are now behind us and if you are like me you probably had opportunity to visit with neighbors and friends in either your or their homes.  These patterns, certainly accelerated during the holidays, got me to thinking about the notion of neighbors and community engagement.

Sociologists, most notably Harvard's Robert Putnam, have examined neighbor relations to ascertain how engaged people might be, and in the extensive Saguaro Seminar reported their findings.  The Harvard team interviewed over 30,000 Americans and asked a number of questions including ones like: "How many neighbors names do you know," or "Have you ever been in a neighbors home," or "Have you ever had a neighbor in your home."  They discovered that the more engaged people had stronger relationships with neighbors.

To this end, I wonder how your neighbor relations are?  Do you know your neighbor's names - or more, have you ever been in a neighbor's home, or had them in your home?  These simple notions are important in understanding social capital and community engagement. More, maybe you can make more effort to get to know your neighbors.  These efforts, according to Robert Putnam and other sociologists, enhance our culture and help build a better community.

Condeluci Hill: How Settings Matter

When I have the opportunity to share ideas about building social capital I often harken back to my upbringing on "Condeluci Hill."  Most folks who know me know that I grew up (and still live) on our family "hill" in McKees Rocks, just outside of Pittsburgh.  Our family has been on the hill going back to when my grandfather came over from Italy in 1915.  They settled in the Pittsburgh area because of relatives that came to America a couple years before.

When I was born on the hill, there were 8 Condeluci families who lived up there.  Today there are 11 families either on, or coming up to the hill.  Growing up on this hill was an amazing start to life.  As with any "tribe" all of us were automatically accepted and respected, regardless of our skills, abilities, or functionality.  It was a setting of unconditional acceptance and love.

As a cultural setting though, there were certain aspects and behaviors we were expected to carry out or comply with in daily interaction.  All of us children were expected to follow the rituals of the hill, position ourselves in deference to our elders, and learn key words (jargon) of the Southern Italian dialect.  This included many Italian words that described situations, or circumstances.  We were expected to behave with respect, love, being kind, forgiving, recognizing our blessings and giving back to our family.  These were all lessons from the "hill."

As I reflect now on these early years I am taken by the rules of the cultural settings that become important in community building.  When a newcomer to a community begins to incorporate the expected rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon of the setting they are attempting to enter, they become more easily assimilated.  These are important lessons we can use when we are helping others become accepted in our communities.

So the next time you are in one of your regular settings, take a minute to consider the rituals, behaviors, patterns and jargon that you are aware of or use as a member.  As simple as these things are, they become critical pieces of cultural acceptance.

Art and Creativity

My dear sister, Cathy (we call her Aunt Cat) decided to winter this year in Gulfport FL.  She chose Gulfport because her daughter, my niece Suzanne moved there a couple years ago to open an art gallery to highlight the work she and her husband, August Vernon are doing.

So, while in FL recently I made some time to visit Cat, and Suzanne, and to tour the art colony that is Gulfport.  We had a great breakfast at Stella's, then walked the main street and took in the sights and sounds that is Gulfport.  It is a very cool artist destination with a number of galleries, street art, clubs with great music, and excellent restaurants.

For me however, one of the highlights was spending some time at the August Vernon Studio.  One side of the studio highlights the work done by August, incredible paintings all, each one having a story behind it.  They chronical places they have lived and people who have touched their lives.

The other side displays the work of my niece, Suzanne (www.suzannevernon.com).  She is accomplished in a number of medians, but her current work is in mosaics.  She has incredible pieces, of various sizes and designs, along with jewelry and crafts that are amazing. You need to check out her website!

As I left Gulfport, I thought about the "right brain" skills that artists like Suzanne and August have and how important creativity and art is for all of us.  I am so glad there are creative people like Suzanne, who through her work, stimulate our right brain elements and push us into a more creative zone. 

So the next time you see a local art gallery, stop by and take in the work.  Better, find a piece that speaks to you and buy it.  You will not only be supporting an important artist, but will have a "right brain" reminder that might just push you to a new creative zone.

Right/Left Brain Dominance

Neuroscience has now articulated that our two temporal lobes (Right side/Left side) control very different aspects in our behavior and personalities.  It is now known that our Left side is the more structured, organized, and controlled aspects of our behavior.  People dominant on the Left side are much more statistically focused, they make lists, are more logical, precise, and cautious in how they engage the world.

Conversely, people dominant on the Right side are much more macro in how they see the world.  They are more intuitive, instinctive, and driven by their gut feelings.  They are said to have a greater sense of emotional intelligence, are more social and interpersonal in how they relate to others. Music, art, and stories are influential and often carry the day.

Now for most, we are balanced in these 2 spheres of influence, but can lean left or right based on how we see and relate to the world.  We might have some of our bent one way or the other, but by and large, show a little bit of each personality sets of these frames.

One simple way you can get a sense of which side you favor is to clasp your hands, with fingers intersected.  Do this 4 or 5 times quickly and then keep your fingers intersected and observe which thumb is on top.  If it is your left thumb, then you would tend to be right brained.  If it is your right thumb, you are probably left brained. 

Certainly, those of us who are interested in social change should think more about these bents. When we related to others we should organize are approach by utilizing both right and left brain variables.  For example, when I have opportunity to share ideas in presentations, I work hard to share information in ways that might appeal to both groups.  That is, I will use statistics on some issues to cater to the left brainers, but then add a story or two to appeal to the right brainers.

So what side of the brain seems to be your bent, and how might you look to enhance the other, less dominate side so you can relate in a positive way to either side of this equation.

Social Capital Models

In the research done in the area of social capital (relationships) it is clear that connections with other people do good things for us.  Relationships are associated with better health, more happiness, advancement, achievement, better self confidence and even life expectancy.  With all these good outcomes, the natural question is how might you and I develop and enhance more relationships in our lives.

Although there are no exact formulas, we know that there are a couple variables that do matter.  One is finding similarities in interests and then discovering settings where people gather on a regular basis around these similar interests.  In this example, just regularity of exchange can be a critical factor.  Another important variable is the communication patterns people use to enhance the initial connection.

One other thought in this process is to observe other successful people.  We all know folks in our circles who seem to always be popular.  In discovering socially successful folks we might want to observe these "social capital models" and look for things that they do that seem to make them popular.  Notice how these people carry themselves, how they communicate, how they relate to others.

They say that social mimicry is the greatest form of flattery.  By emulating these social successful people not only might you enhance your social skills, but you will also be flattering some important people in your circles.

Quotes and Life

From time to time on this blog, I like to share quotes that I have found that can get us to think.  As many of you know, I use quotes regularly in talks I do, and in the writing that I share.  I love the impact that a quote can make, and so I have pulled some recent finds for you to reflect on.

"Always desire to learn something useful"   Sophocles

"The more a man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large"     Confuscius

"In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can"     Kazantzakis

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope and confidence"     Keller

"Of all the things which wisdom provides to make us entirely happy, much of the greatest is the possession of friendship"     Epicurus

"In the end we are all separate. Our stories, no matter how similar, come to a fork and diverge. We are drawn to each other because of our similarities, but it is our differences we must learn to respect"     VonGoeth

"The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best"     Epictetus

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will really be happy are those who have sought and found how to serve"   Schweitzer

"Life is made up of small comings and goings.  And for everything a man takes with him, there is something he must leave behind"     Rausher

Thanks for taking a minute to read this blog.  I hope these quotes might get you to think a bit more about your own life, and more, how your life touches the lives of others.

Oxytocin - All the Good Things It Brings

We all know that relationships, social connections, and social capital are good for us and that we benefit greatly from these friendships, but often don't know the essence of this value.  If you dig a bit deeper however, you will find that at the core of this value is the hormone, Oxytocin.  As I try to learn more about social capital it is clear to me that through our social capital we benefit from the positive effects is Oxytocin.  So, just what does this hormone do.

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reduces anxiety and enhances security.  It heightens social recognition and promotes a sense of pair-bonding.  We know that trust is increased by oxytocin, and trust is one of the core variables in our covenant relationship zone.

A recent study by Dr. Marazziti found that positive social interactions may directly influence health by lessening inflammation and allowing a better sense of healing.  This further corroborates the medicinal effect of social capital.

Even the simple process of hugging releases oxytocin, enhancing the feelings we have for the person we are hugging.  But more, just being with people in a social situation, sharing conversation, exploring new things induces oxytocin.  Even singing together has this positive effect.

So, as you think about your relationships, know that there is a chemical foundation that enhances these relationships.  To this end I recommend that we hug more, sing more, relate more with those people around us.  In the end we are better for these relationships.