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Social integration and a midsummer potluck lunch

We have fifty to sixty people due for lunch today.  I better not hang around writing blog postings for too long.  There's still lots of preparation work to do.  It's great.  I love these midsummer potluck lunches that we've been hosting for many years now.  It's such fun to invite most of our local social network and see them all mixing up together in a chaotic "soup".  Hard work.  Heart warming.  If we invite ninety or so people we normally reckon that about half of them will be able to make it, so today's "catch" is a pretty good one.  Nearly all our closest local friends will be here and mixed up with them will be other friends, acquaintances, new partners, a couple of children.  Fantastic.  There's plenty of preparation and dear Catero has done a lot of cooking but, since it's potluck, we're not trying to feed them all just from our own efforts.

I'm reading Lewis Hyde's "The gift: how the creative spirit transforms the world" at the moment.  Although the book is primarily about art, it is also very much about gift-giving and social groups, about the huge importance of sharing.  Potluck meals seem a fun way of touching on this a little.  It ties in a bit too with Jennifer Crocker's fascinating work on "Egosystem & ecosystem".  

But what strikes me most about this kind of large group get-together is the value of social integration.  Sheldon Cohen, who is one of the great researchers on the importance of relationships for health, has argued that three aspects of relationships are all important in the relationships-health link - emotional closeness, broader social network, and low interpersonal conflict.  As so often with the internet, you can get access to Cohen's work very easily by visiting his website

I've blogged before about assessing these aspects of our social networks.  See the post on "Relationships, self-esteem & health" and, more importantly still, the post on "Handouts & questionnaires for assessing & building good relationship networks". 

Today is about wellbeing too.  In self-determination terms, so much of my life is about autonomy and competence.  This party is for relatedness and I'm hungry for it!   

... and now writing again later ... the day went beautifully.  The weather was fine and we were in the garden the whole time.  Swimming in friendship, kindness, humour.  Several people stayed afterwards to help with the endless washing up and clearing.  Then sitting together eventually - just the two of us - eating odds and ends for supper, Catero and I talked about some of the fun bits, the interactions we'd observed or been involved in, the things people had said, the food they'd brought, the coincidences and re-meetings.  Savouring.  And then to bed.  A perfect day!


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