"The World Lost A Bit of Its Sparkle Today"

This morning I learned that the mother of someone I hold very dear lost her battle with cancer. I am deeply saddened by this news, despite the fact that I personally did not have the pleasure of knowing her. We did not live or work in the same town, are not of the same race or ethnicity, come from different backgrounds. Yet in many ways, it’s as if I know who she was, what she stood for, the depth of her character, because I know and respect her child. She became part of my community, because she was so loved, and talked about, by her family.



So what defines a community?


Definitions for the word “community” range from exclusionary (e.g. a group of people who live in the same area or a group of people with a common background) to all-inclusive, a global reference to society in general. And in fact, each of us exists in several different types of communities, some simply defined by our employment or our interests. However, the more global definition, in many ways, relegates community to the basics of biology – living organisms that exist in a shared environment. If I choose to apply this sterile definition of community to my life, then my friend’s mom was already a part of my community and there should be no emotional impact. But this was not the case – I am personally affected by this loss, and grateful for the emotion. It makes me feel more… human.


Others have certainly experienced this more humanistic view of community. How many of us mourned the loss of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre?? Or were repulsed by the brutal kidnapping, gang rape and murder of that beautiful 23-year-old student in India, and the fact that she lay in the streets for hours with no help from passersby?? Even though we may not have personally known any of these victims – or lived in their city, or state,

or country – we FELT connected. Those of us who had an emotional connection found something that we related with in those stories. Perhaps we saw our own friend or family members in those stories; we thought about our sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, mother. Maybe it was just sadness over the senselessness of it all. Whatever drew us in, we all became part of the same community, even if it were just for a moment.


In this technology-driven world where people can communicate with someone halfway around the world in a matter of seconds, how can more people in the US suffer from loneliness than ever before?

In this technology-driven world where people can communicate with someone halfway around the world in a matter of seconds, how can more people in the US suffer from loneliness than ever before? (Read article). What they are lacking is a sense of community; an emotional connection. I am so thankful that we have such amazing technology. The amount information we have at our fingertips and how quickly we can receive it is astounding. My hope is that we utilize these resources not to further alienate or exclude others, but to build a more inclusive community – a community that truly cares for each other as human beings. Learning how to appreciate our differences will enable us to value one another, just as we value the unique beauty of each precious gem we unearth.


Here in the US, we are divided by politics, race, ethnicity, religion and economics, just to name a few. The history of this nation is replete with stories that are just as heinous as the headline stories mentioned above; acts that were performed against an entire race of people. In order to truly come together as a community, we MUST be willing to learn about and learn from this history – all of it: the good and the bad. We must reflect before we can heal.


For my good friend whose “world lost a bit of its sparkle today” – I am thinking of you. Thank you for accepting me into your community – and celebrating our differences. Because of who you are, the legacy of your “precious jewel” will live on.

Originally published 1/5/2013

Hi, I'm Dr. Karen!

For years, I have been obsessed with understanding why some communities are more greatly impacted by disease than others. So as a medical/graduate student, I decided that I wanted to make sure that everyone had equal access to healthcare and we would no longer have underserved populations in the U.S.

This blog, and this site, is dedicated to the pursuit of eradicating health disparities and empowering communities and individuals to take charge of their own health. 

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