Happy New Year, everyone!
It seems that last night, EVERYONE, all 153 guests, wanted a delicious dinner. Vegetable barley soup, sweet and sour meatballs, rice, mixed vegetables, Caesar salad, clementines. Awesome dinner by Miriam and Patricia with extra help from Marcia’s young energetic grandsons, Saul, 8, Daniel,7, and Ethan, 9, who, along with my Samantha, moved all the tables, set up all the chairs, rolled cutlery, bagged bread and bagels. The boys saw inside our special closet where there are toiletries, boots, coats, clothes, for our homeless guests. Next the stacks of pillows, mats, blankets, sheets.
In the past, the attendance between Christmas and New Years is lower, so Centenary Church decided to close leaving us as the sole OOTC hot-spot! Our security guard, Mike, suggested that we put up another table just in case the present ignored the past. Mike’s a Barton Street Jail employee who has excellent intuition! Not only was the table needed, but every movable chair in the church and every plate and fork too! Guests were everywhere but so was food and all was good.
Jayson, 7, brought his shark book which Santa, wink, wink, brought him and showed us how much he’s learned from it!
There were 15 overnight guests thankfully. When I had to tell them that there would not be an OOTC for the next 2 nights, there were looks of despair. I felt really really really bad but they, I’m sure, felt worse. We, at OOTC, have a remarkable effect on our guests who I know benefit from our optimistic and happy demeaner, even if it is so few hours a day. Please read the attached for an in depth scientific explanation. (Thank you to Ahuva for passing this gem along weeks ago.) So, Happy New Year, friends. May it be healthy and productive and meaningful too.
In today's excerpt-happiness is contagious, and it is more contagious than unhappiness. In a twenty-year study of over 4700 individuals, Harvard professor Nicholas Cristakis carefully examined the effects of happiness within a social network, and documented the results in the British Medical Journal. The following is excerpted from the much more detailed paper presented in a recent issue of that journal:
"Emotional states can be transferred directly from one individual to another by mimicry and 'emotional contagion,' perhaps by the copying of emotionally relevant bodily actions, particularly facial expressions, seen in others. People can 'catch' emotional states they observe in others over time frames ranging from seconds to weeks. For example, students randomly assigned to a mildly depressed room-mate became increasingly depressed over a three month period, and the possibility of emotional contagion between strangers, even those in ephemeral contact, has been documented by the effects of 'service with a smile' on customer satisfaction and tipping.
"While there are many determinants of happiness, whether an individual is happy also depends on whether others in the individual's social network are happy. Happy people tend to be located in the centre of their local social networks and in large clusters of other happy people. The happiness of an individual is associated with the happiness of people up to three degrees removed in the social network. Happiness, in other words, is not merely a function of individual experience or individual choice but is also a property of groups of people. Indeed, changes in individual happiness can ripple through social networks and generate large scale structure in the network, giving rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals. These results are even more remarkable considering that happiness requires close physical proximity to spread and that the effect decays over time.
"These models show that happy alters (friends) consistently influence [an individual's] happiness
more than unhappy alters, and only the total number of happy alters remains significant in all
specifications. In other words, the number of happy friends seems to have a more reliable effect on ego happiness than the number of unhappy friends. Thus, the social network effect of happiness is multiplicative and asymmetric.
"All these relations indicate the importance of physical proximity, and the strong influence of neighbours suggests that the spread of happiness might depend more on frequent social contact than deep social connections.
"Happiness spreads significantly more through same sex relationships than opposite sex relationships.
"Conclusions: Human happiness is not merely the province of isolated individuals ... The better
connected are one's friends and family, the more likely one will attain happiness in the future ...
People's happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides
further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon."
James H Fowler and Nicholas A Christakis, "Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network:
longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study,"British Medical Journal, 4