Grace, wherever it finds you

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{This post was first published as The Sunday Reader.}

It was half past eight on a summer weekday morning and we were running early for an appointment in Merrickville, a small Ottawa Valley town, so we stopped for breakfast at McDonald’s in the nearby community of Kemptville. I got in line to order our food and Damien said he’d find us a table. He walked towards the only empty booth in the main seating area and looked back at me with one eyebrow raised. Every one of the tables around him was occupied with senior citizens having what felt way more like a party than breakfast.

We ate quietly and watched the action untold at the four tables around us. There was a table of eight men engaged in a lively discussion of politics and sports, a table of 12 boisterous and gorgeous white-haired women, a table of four men speaking a curious mix of English and Italian and one mixed-gender table with four brave men and two spunky women. The vibe was like high school: loud, boisterous and charged with energy. They all knew each other and called out to each other across the restaurant. A man named Harry was having a birthday and the entire place, including the staff, sang Happy Birthday in Harry’s honour.

I couldn’t help but feel curious about how often they gathered in this way. Once a week? Every day? Had someone organised this breakfast or had these gatherings happened spontaneously, taking on a heart-warming life of their own?

Whatever its origin, it was clear was that this breakfast at McDonald’s was one of the most brilliant social programs ever devised to help people in their eighties feel young and vital. And for the very low price of a coffee and a McGriddle.

This reminded me of the Rat Park research conducted by Professor Bruce Alexander at Simon Fraser University in the late 1970s. He was trying to understand the nature of addiction and found that rats who lived in the company of other rats, unlike rats tested on their own, were far less likely to become dependent on the morphine-laced water placed in their cage. The rats who lived communally in Rat Park consistently chose the water that did not contain morphine; they did not become addicted to drugs nor did they overdose. Alexander concluded that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection.

At this moment in our human history, we are witnessing terrible events that reflect back to us the profound significance of connection and the dire consequences of losing that connection.

Is there someone you’d like to reach out to? A friend you haven’t seen in a long time? Someone you know who is having a rough go of things?

Is there anyone you’d like to ask for help?

I’m wishing you grace, today, wherever you find it… and create it.

Cheers,
Monna
xo

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