Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Health and our Inner Cities

I love front porches. In my neighborhood, everyone comes out in the evenings after it's cooled down. I learn so much from sitting on my front porch and watching the neighborhood. I love to watch as people work in their yards, sit in lawn chairs under shade trees and relax, work on their car, and walk around the neighborhood. Everyone waves and says hi as they go about evening routines.

Our inner cities (which is where I live) have a lot of different issues. I don't have to tell you that. You see it on the news...you hear the reports...you see the maps that show the geographic areas that have higher crime rates, poorer nutrition habits, higher mortality rates, etc. But tonight as I sat on my front porch, I realized something...

What those reports don't tell you is that not everyone in our inner-city communities are like that.

Tonight I waved at Shirl and J.C. (husband and wife in their late 40's, early 50's) as they walked by my house. When they returned about 30 minutes later, I heard them begin to talk to their niece who is probably in her 30's. They told her they had discovered a new route to walk. At that point it dawned on me that my neighbors are not one of those negative statistics that are always presented by the media and other reports.

I began to think about the times I've seen Shirl and her entire family--husband, kids and grandkids--riding their bikes down the main street near our houses. Shirl and her family take walks every day. I watch her sister, Stella (my next door neighbor...also probably in her 50's), leave for the gym nearly every morning. She has a membership at 24-hour fitness. Ms. Stella and I have talked about her high blood pressure and how she does different things like working in the yard, walking, working out, and watching her eating habits in order to lower her blood pressure.

Ms. Stella, Shirl, and J.C. are not only taking care of themselves, they are instilling good habits in their kids and grandkids. They are making their health a priority. Maybe they didn't have great health habits when they were younger. Maybe that's why they have health issues now. I don't know. But I do know that to look at my neighborhood and read off a bunch of statistics is a mistake.

I've seen and heard about a lot of "programs" that do good things in and for the community. But, perhaps more importantly than the programs, are the people in the communities who are influencing other people. Too often, I think we give the "programs" and ourselves the credit...when really we should be looking at the people in the community who are making a difference. Aren't they the true heroes who should be given a pat on the back??
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