Monday, November 4, 2013

Maggie Stuckey: Welcome to Soup Night!

All week long on Inside Storey, we're celebrating Soup Night – both the book and the community-building acts that inspired it. Stay tuned to the blog (or follow along on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter)  for recipes, soup night stories, and a peek at our own Soup Night event. In this inaugural post, Maggie Stuckey invites us to imagine what soup night would like in our own towns or city blocks, and reflects on the benefits that come from taking the time to share a nourishing meal with our neighbors. Welcome to Soup Night Week!

Soup Night author Maggie Stuckey

Imagine this scene: You answer a knock on the door one evening to find a woman who seems a little familiar. “Hello,” she says, smiling, “my name is Karen, from down the block. I’m hosting a neighborhood soup night next Sunday at my house, and I hope you and your family can come. Just bring a bowl and a spoon.”

Should you go? YES !!! You’ll have a wonderful time, and no doubt some delicious soup, but that’s only the beginning. After a while, you will notice that a few things have changed in your neighborhood.

Now, when you see a neighbor on the sidewalk you do more than wave; you actually stop and visit, because you know something about their life. Seniors and people living alone feel more secure, because they know help is all around them. No one feels isolated or lonely. Your neighborhood is safer, with less crime, because everyone keeps a friendly eye out. Perhaps best of all, your children get to know all the adults in the neighborhood, and vice versa, and that brings many positive benefits. With the loving support of a wide network of adults, children do better in school. They learn not to be afraid of people whose skin is a different color. You don’t have to worry when they play outside, because lots of people are watching out for them. Growing up in this “village,” children thrive in countless wonderful ways.

This is not an abstract portrait. Most of these benefits have been scientifically researched and validated. The link between strong social connections and emotional well-being is obvious. But here’s the surprising thing: There is also a clear connection to physical health. Being lonely can literally make you sick. A couple of examples: One study found that social isolation is as bad for you as smoking and worse than obesity. Another found that socializing does as much good for older people as exercise. And several studies show that people with active social lives are less likely to develop memory problems as they get older.

If all that isn’t enough good news, here’s what really makes Soup Night sparkle: It’s just so much fun! As one participant put it, “If you don’t laugh until your sides hurt, it wasn’t a good night.”

And your kids will absolutely love it. One of the moms said to me, “Soup Night is a very coveted invitation among our children’s friends. They all say, ‘Have you started Soup Night yet? Can I come?’” Add to that this wonderful comment from one of the dads: “Soup Night is really for the kids on the block, and they don’t even know it yet. Right now it’s just a big party to them. But they’re seeing adults behave cooperatively, and that’s a great thing to grow up with.”

 If you’ve ever wished that you knew your neighbors better, I hope you will consider a Soup Night. It’s wonderfully simple to do, and the results are magical. I have seen it for myself, with a Soup Night in my hometown. And I have talked with other “soup” groups all around the country, and they all say the same thing: It has made our neighborhood a real community, and what a special thing that is.

So if “Karen” from your neighborhood doesn’t come calling, maybe you’ll be inspired to start a Soup Night tradition yourself. But if she does, by all means, say yes. Just bring a bowl, and a spoon, and an open heart. Welcome to Soup Night!

Warm regards,

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