When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens like one of those fluted Japanese blossoms, flimsy and spastic, bright and warm. This almost always seems to happen in community.
-Annie Lamott quoted in "The Impossible Will Take a Little While"

From "Healing Words for the Body, Mind and Spirit," by Caren Golman:

In the late 1990s. psychiatrist David Spiegel published a study showing that women with metastatic breast cancer who belonged to a support group lived longer. Although I'm a real introvert who considers more than two people in a room a crowd, those findings didn't surprise me. Even I admit to occasionally feeling strong urges to connect with like-minded friends, peers, and my faith community just for the health of it. In fact, I have no doubt that our universal, innate yearning to be in relationship with others is, in part, rooted in a deep, abiding truth that healthy communities offer us protective immunity.

During times of illness and grievous personal loss, communities of friends, relatives, and even strangers gather round to nourish and fortify us physically, spiritually and emotionally by helping us to endure our pain, heal our wounds, and continue to say "Yes!" to life. Without asking, they eagerly pray for our health and survival, not just with words, but with deeds, too. They show up at our doorsteps and hospital beds with casseroles, cakes, cards, and other tokens of their concerns. They give us a hero's "hurray!" for making strides we may consider insignificant. They magically appear to pick up the balls we drop and keep them in play. And, at those times when the fact that we have nothing to say says it all, they just sit in silence with us.

It's no surprise to me that Spiegel's study showed that we do far better when we connect with one another. After my treatments for breast cancer ended, I started a support group. At the first meeting, each woman talked about her hopes, fears, and concerns about the future. While watching heads nod in agreement, I felt my own head doing the same. Looking into the eyes of those around me, I saw that I didn't have to experience exactly what each woman went through to know her story was my story. We were, that night and forever more, all in this together.

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Also on Beliefnet:

  • Support Group: Breast Cancer Survivors

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