That’s what friends are for. They give you hope; make you smile and remind you of who you are and what is possible. It turns out that friends are good for us. And so, kicking this off with a friend seems only fitting. Let me explain. This is the first of what I hope to be a monthly series of email-interviews focused on the specific aspects of wellness and wellbeing, primarily from the perspective of Culpeperians living it and working it every day. No one will be doing it perfectly, but hopefully they will all offer us just a little something to consider for our own lives. So here we go.
My friend Keith Brown is running for Culpeper’s Town Council. I just wish I had thought of it for him first. But he came to it on his own, just as so many of us do; through his own personal struggle. He explained, “In June 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Colon Cancer. I relied on faith and community to get through the process, and vowed to always live life with no regrets, and to give back to those in need”. He did what one would expect to heal his body – “I changed my diet and began to exercise more frequently”. But as his health improved, he recognized that something was still missing for him emotionally and spiritually.
Keith explained that church became increasingly important to him, particularly as he participated in religious functions and engaged more heavily in his church community. “Unless you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is hard to explain the lingering thought that the cancer may return”. Increasing his connections and sharing his story with others helped. But even more, “I began to find helping others addressed my negative feelings – serving others was therapeutic”.
“It turns out that people who are more socially connected to family, to friends, to community, are happier, they’re physically healthier, and they live longer than people who are less well connected”. This is according to Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and Harvard professor. He is the current director of one of the world’s longest studies of what makes us happy and healthy. After 80 years of research, it turns out Keith is right; it’s all about relationships.
In Dr. Waldinger’s 2015 TED Talk, he explained, “When we gathered together everything we knew about them at age 50, it wasn’t their middle-age cholesterol levels that predicted how they were going to grow old, it was how satisfied they were in their relationships. The people who were the most satisfied in their relationships at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80.”
Politics aside, Keith is going for it. I am proud of him. And best of all, he is cancer free and doing well. Based on the research, he is on his way to living a long and happy life. Good for him and us too. It really does seem to be true that the more we give, the more we get. And Keith has learned this firsthand. He described meeting new people in the process of running for office, and how much he has enjoyed “the opportunity to listen to the concerns, suggestions, and ideas of my neighbors and business owners … Simple conversations have significant impact”.
Keith is living proof that connections matter. He said, “The Town of Culpeper is a special place to live, and a simple hello can make all the difference”. “No matter the outcome of the election, I will continue to serve those in my community”.
Thank you, my friend, and be well.