It was a lazy Sunday morning when there was a knock on our front door. My partner Matt answered and disappeared out the front. I assumed it was some kind of delivery but when he hadn't reappeared five minutes later I got curious and stepped outside. Matt was chatting to an older couple, Rita and Phillip, in the cobbled laneway outside our front door. I joined the conversation and quickly learned Rita and her family used to live in the house in front of ours, and our townhouse was built in her old backyard. Rita was on a trip back to her old neighbourhood and down memory lane. 

Rita's parents were Polish immigrants who arrived in Australian with just the clothes on their back. Her father found work with a tailor, and eventually moved his pregnant wife into a very basic, dirt floored home. They lead a simple life, surrounded by other immigrants in the local Carlton area.


Polish Immigrants Melbourne.jpg

Rita recalled a flood that filled the cobbled street with water and meant that she and her siblings had their own homemade swimming pool for a day. She also recalled, despite their own limited circumstances, her mother would go down to the Port Melbourne docks and meet the boat bringing new immigrants into the country. Her parents would offer a place to sleep for those who arrived with no possessions, no connections and no English. The family would house and feed people as they found their feet and got started in their new Aussie life. 

After chatting for about half an hour Phillip mentioned he had better keep moving. It was only at this point I realised they weren't a couple - they had only just met. Philip had been heading out on his bicycle to do his weekly shop and seen Rita looking a little lost and stopped to offer help. He had helped her identify her old family home, they had knocked on the front door but no one was home. He then showed her the side laneway and the entrance to our house, clearly all built since her family had left, and together they had knocked on our door.

I was moved by Rita's family story, the connection to Melbourne's immigrant past, and Philips simple act of kindness that connected us all. Needless to say I passed on the band4hope that I had on my wrist. I wished I had two so I could give one to both Rita and Philip. 


The wellbeing science

One of the founding fathers of positive psychology, the late Chris Peterson, oft repeated the phrase "other people matter". There is an overwhelming body of research and lived experience that tells us that the most important thing for our wellbeing is our social connections. Conversely, a major risk factor for depression is loneliness. Loneliness is a greater risk factor for our health and wellbeing than high blood pressure, smoking and obesity.

The take home message for your health and happiness is stop and take the time to look after the connections in your life. Nurture both your intimate and close relationships and the small everyday interactions with people in your community. Like Rita and Phillip.


Follow this story...

This blog is part of a 2015 series called Do4Hope. It shares wellbeing science and stories through an action based project called Do4Hope. The challenge is to spot acts of kindness, hope and inspiration and to choose one person every month to pass on a Band4Hope copper bracelet. They then become a hope ambassador and are encouraged to do the same – creating a ripple of hope, kindness and inspiration. Profits from the bands supports the community that makes them in Africa, as well as local and global charities.


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