Sometimes friendships are born out of pure need – that’s how I think of my friendship with today’s guest post writer, Jeff. His little church and my little non-profit world needed each other, and so a cheerleading partnership began. Not only is he charismatic in general, but he’s real-deal, bonafide-awesome with awkward middle school kids and his lovely wife, Jenn. So, enjoy, and then head on over to Smacking Cheesecake to read more of his thoughts and musings.
A couple of months ago I started a ridiculous venture: a 40 day juice fast. However, after 20 some days I hit a wall. You are supposed to drink at least 90oz a day but during a hectic work week I only managed about 30 – 40oz that week. First my liver, then my entire body shut pretty much shut down. I contracted a fever that lasted three full weeks and a kidney infection that lasted another two.
Just like most red-blooded male Americans I didn’t tell anyone except my employers and wife… probably in that order. I mean c’mon, who wants sympathy? I didn’t want anyone knowing my life was less than perfect. Of course when everyone started seeing me wither away it was kind of hard to hide. A pretty funny debate began at the church I work at:
“Does Jeff have cancer?” whispered concerned grandmas.
“I think Jeff is on meth,” the teens said sarcastically.
So what was it? Meth? Cancer? Neither is a laughing matter but you know what is? A 33 year old man still too proud to tell people he’s sick when his face is as pale and sunken as a New York runway model and his clothes fit looser than MC Hammer parachute pants.
After about seven days of fever and weight loss, I was humbled enough to go to the doctor. Things didn’t really get better. There was no predicted end in sight, and losing 20 pounds over the course of two weeks kept me from hiding it from anyone any longer.
Suddenly there was a barrage of prayers and well wishes, text messages and phone calls. People were stopping me, even in my weak and weary state, to talk to me. My diet and rest pattern hadn’t changed at all but suddenly I actually got better.
Community stepped in when I physically couldn’t do life on my own anymore.
Had community been the source of my healing?
When I think about community I oftentimes think about a place called Roseto, PA, which became a place known in medical circles as a strange “fountain of youth.”
Dr. Stewart Wolf, a university doctor, had heard about a town that suffered no diagnosis of heart disease even though the country was going through a pandemic from it. What Dr. Wolf’s team found was stunning. The Rosetans were more obese than the rest of America. And while one would rightfully assume that genes or even air and soil quality could have played a part, Dr. Wolf’s team found them to be non-factors.
The only thing that made Rosetans unique was their sense of community. Many of them lived in houses that ran three generations deep. The houses were close together and it was normal to spend hours in shared backyards chatting. They planted things together, built things together, and went to dances together. And they suffered no heart disease, depression, or a host of other health problems.
Dr. Wolf predicted that Roseto would eventually fall victim to the same problems we all face. Future generations would become more independent. They would put up fences, stay at home, and would turn shy to acquaintances. They would… become more like me I guess. Sadly, this became true.
It seems every time I have to face a trial of some sort I’m reminded how much easier it is to conquer it with community. It is my hope to build a little Roseto in my home, workplace, and family. Build a little place where all are invited and included.
We’ll laugh and talk and we’ll all be healthy… together.
Thank you, Jeff – I love the intersection of your story, and Roseto’s story as well! Leave a comment for Jeff below, and otherwise, if you haven’t already, cheer Cara on in her writing by becoming a fan of be, mama. be or better yet, by subscribing to receive emails in your inbox! (Click the “follow” button on the left-hand side).0