By: Topher Scott
Veterans and Remembrance Days are ones of reflection and perspective.
They are days to take a step back and appreciate the ultimate sacrifice that men and women in our countries have made so we can have what we have in our lives. And when we take that step back we recognize that freedom doesn’t come free and we are truly lucky to have what we have…as big or as small as we choose to make our scope.
Freedom to say what we believe. Food on the table. Running water. Support networks. Opportunity. Family. Security.
This list can go on and on…
But I think one of the most overlooked and underappreciated values that we have is freedom of community. Community and belonging are basic human needs that we don’t talk about nearly enough.
Earlier this year I read an impactful book called “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger. He speaks in this book about the genesis of belonging and how important it is for our health and well-being both individually and as a society.
One of the most striking findings that he speaks about, coincidentally enough, is Veterans Suicide and PTSD. Studies have found that soldiers that come into service with a sense of community and those that leave service to go home to a sense of community have much lower rates of suicide and PTSD. That community and human connection are huge determining factors of their mental health and well-being.
And it makes a lot of sense. When soldiers go to boot camp and then on to war…they develop a sense of connection with their platoons that go unmatched with any other type of community in the world. These men and women are literally taught to take bullets for each other. I don’t think there’s any stronger bond of brother or sisterhood anywhere.
The problem is, when our soldiers get back to the mainland that community and connection is becoming harder and harder to find. We have become a society that capitulates fake and distorted connection through the use of social media and technology. We are losing the essence of kinship and cooperation (just turn on the news) that makes us whole as people. Connection is a fundamental human need, and we need to recognize that and WORK to provide it to the Veterans that have provided us with so, so much.
So the next time you see a Veteran…thank them. If you’re at a restaurant, buy them a meal. Strike up a conversation. Tell them they are valued.
There’s a good chance that your interaction will do amazing things for their well-being.
And while we’re on the topic, it’s important to recognize the importance of community in our youth hockey culture as well. Youth hockey has become so professionalized and competitive at such a young age that valuing the ideas of community and connection have become a lost art.
Kids are being shopped around and recruited while being sold on individual advancement and promotion. Organizations don’t really operate as whole functioning units…they are more like individual fiefdoms lead by a parent or coach at each level.
These lead to a sense of seclusion and a “Take care of yourself first” attitude that has really plagued our youth hockey culture today. And when I talk about this…I don’t just mean at the higher and older levels. This is happening at the youngest of levels as well.
So as you sit back on these days of reflection, I ask that you reflect upon what you are doing to create a culture of community and connection in your world. Whether it’s in your family, your business, your team, or your actual community…let’s all try and foster a better sense of belonging that is so important to our mental health and well-being. We will all be better individually, and together, because of it. And we will affect those in our worlds that really, truly need it.
Like our Veterans, who deserve above and beyond what they willingly provide for us.