Jan. 2, 2015: Year of Peace focuses on the power of ‘social capital,’ by Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

January 2, 2015 by

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

Sister Jean Rosemarynoski

For 2015 the Year of Peace is promoting something called “social capital.” But what is that? And why should you care?

Let me start with the story:

Sue, a single mother of young children, was doing laundry at Neighbor to Neighbor, the center for women in downtown Concordia. She was out of work, having trouble paying bills and getting discouraged. At the same time, another woman who had just gotten off work came in to the center. Sue looked at her, sighed and said, “I need a job. I really need a job.” The woman quickly responded, “My boss is hiring but he’s only taking applications through today! Why don’t you go now?”

Sue perked up, and then groaned, “I just put my laundry in and I can’t leave it.”

“I’ll take care of your laundry,” the women insisted. “You just go!”

That’s one small example of social capital. Another bigger example was the Cloudville Park Project. The amount of money raised, the volunteers who came to help, the meals that were provided, the tools loaned… It was an incredible display of social capital at its best!

One definition of “social capital,” from the Collins English Dictionary, is “the network of social connections that exist between people, and their shared values and norms of behavior, which enable and encourage mutually advantageous social cooperation.”

In simpler language, that means that when one person helps another or when people come together (the “social” part of it), everyone involved can benefit (the “capital” part) — and benefit more than if each one was acting alone.

“Social capital” can be as simple as asking your neighbor to watch your house while you’re out of town. That’s one of the goals of National Night Out that occurs every August – to help neighbors meet one another, which creates safer neighborhoods and more wholesome living. Most people feel better knowing the names of the people who live next door.

One important facet of social capital is volunteerism. During the coming months we have invited nonprofits to use this space to share with you what their organization does and how they use volunteers.

Much has been written about the benefits of volunteering both to the community and the individual. A study published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association” in the 1940s even claimed that volunteering could prevent the common cold! More recently “Time” magazine (Aug. 23, 2013) published an article titled “Helping Others Helps You Live Longer.” The lead author of that study, Dr. Suzanne Richards, wrote, “Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in health.”

Those are only the benefits to you! Benefits to the community include saving resources, letting people know that others care about them, beautifying the city and so much more!

Again, I think of the Park Project. Volunteers saved the community thousands of dollars, gave a strong message to the children that they are important to us and created a space of beauty and relaxation.

Like we saw with the Park Project, volunteers come in all ages, sizes and across all income levels. So we hope that you enjoy reading about the various opportunities to volunteer that you will find in these columns. Or you may find other needs that you seek out on your own. Either way, we hope that you consider getting more involved in our community.

There will also be Year of Peace programs and events throughout the year: We will sponsor a book study this winter on Appreciative Living, put a new look on promoting civility, co-sponsor (with the Concordia Police Department) National Night Out in August and host a Hunger Banquet in the fall. We are working with a grassroots committee to determine what more can be done to eradicate domestic violence.

We always welcome new people and new ideas. Please contact any member of the committee if you are interested!

And in case you wondered about Sue in the story at the start of this column, she applied and got the job the same day!

 

— Sister Jean Rosemarynoski is a member of the Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph and chairs the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. If you have ideas or suggestions for the committee or want to get involved with the Year of Peace, contact Sister Jean at 243-2149 or sisterjean@csjkansas.org, or any of the other committee members.

 

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