The Roseto Mystery
“These people were dying of old age. That’s it.”
In a recent sermon at our church, the preacher spoke about families, and how we can’t live in isolation. We need each other. We grow better in groups. That’s why God invented families and the church. That’s why I title this blog, “It Takes a Family.”
In the #1 national bestseller by Malcolm Gladwell, “Outliers – The Stories of Success”, we see another example of the value of community, as Gladwell uncovers a hidden story about a little city named Roseto. Roseto was originally a small town in the Apennine foothills of Italy. The people were poor and struggling, and when they heard of the opportunities in America, almost the whole town immigrated to America. So in the late 1800’s, around 1200 people from Roseto immigrated to a small rural area in Pennsylvania, and eventually established a new “Roseto.” In this new land, the people and city flourished. They worked hard, raised their children, went to church and lived quiet, happy lives. They also lived a long time.
After many years, it began to be noticed by doctors, that few people died in Roseto due to heart disease. In fact, the death rate from all causes was 35% less than the national average. A team of doctors did a thorough research of this little town of 2000, and here is what they found. “There was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn’t have anyone on welfare…These people were dying of old age. That’s it.”
So why the longer lives? The researchers checked diet, exercise, genes and even location, and there were no answers. So the answer had to be Roseto itself. Here is what the researchers found as they walked around Roseto. They looked at how the Rosetans visited one another on the streets and in their backyards. They learned about extended family clans that underlay the town’s social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded. They saw them in worship in their Catholic church. In short, they had simply transplanted this close culture from southern Italy to the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, and created a powerful, protective social structure, capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world.
So what is the mystery of Roseto? The Rosetans were healthy and happy because of community. Living a long life is not just about what we eat or how we exercise or about coming from the right gene pool. We have to appreciate that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.
Don’t live in isolation. Visit with your neighbors. Go to church. Eat with friends. Spend time with your family. Share your love and receive love in return. Have a great life.
“And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”
Sir Paul McCartney