Strength in Numbers by Janelle Kono

ately I have found a new hobby: finding random challenges and convincing my friends to join me. Most recently I convinced two of my friends to participate in a 30 day burpee challenge consisting of doing 30 burpees every day. We all bonded over the initial shared misery of the challenge, and the consequent exciting improvements we saw together. I found I am much more likely to stick to these challenges with two other people keeping me accountable. Moments like these remind me of our strength in numbers.

I have noticed this trend at my health center as well. I am currently helping put on a six week Diabetes Self-Management Program at my host site, which is regularly attended by ten community members. Every week, we each create an action plan consisting of a goal and the specific steps to accomplish the goal in the coming week. The class has come together to keep each other accountable to their goals, to help problem solve weekly goals that couldn’t quite be met, and to encourage one another to make healthier choices. One man initially came to class the first week and admitted his weakness is Beiler’s Doughnuts located in Reading Terminal Market, which he walks by every day. For the past five weeks his action plan has included steps to make healthier choices with his diet. This past week he announced that he has not been to Beiler’s since the first class, a very impressive feat for anyone who has tasted the sugary goodness of a Beiler’s doughnut. The accountability of the class has facilitated major accomplishments in lifestyle changes over the past six weeks which has been inspiring to see.

The power of others is not limited to helping each other make healthier choices. In one of my favorite member meetings, the Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley came to speak to us. In response to a member’s question about how effective demonstrations actually are, he shared with us the power of protests and other large civic showings. These demonstrations call the attention of government officials and prompt them to take action. In our society, we praise individuality and standing apart from the rest. While the individual is certainly needed to take the first stand, real power comes from standing together to make the world a better place, whether in the realm of policy or choosing to swap the doughnuts for burpees.