A Night on the Town

How do you like to spend a Saturday night out? For one-third of Americans, the choice is a nice meal in a restaurant, according to a Monitor/TIPP poll. That beats seeing a live show or going to a party. (See story, page 1.)

Just having someone serve you a meal is a "way for people to feel valued," points out one professor. That seems like an expensive path to happiness. Is there another way?

Perhaps self-worth really lies in helping others feel worthy. But that would mean being more involved with friends, neighbors, and community.

Such civic engagement was the topic of a project called the Saguaro Seminar at Harvard University last year.

The group came up with "100 Things You Can Do to Build Social Capital." Here are a few of those community-enhancing activities that may be an alternative to dining out:

• Surprise a new neighbor by making a favorite dinner - include the recipe - and invite other neighbors.

• Form a computer group for local seniors.

• Host a movie night.

• Start a fix-it group of people willing to help clean, paint, garden, etc.

• Form or join a bowling team.

• Register for a class, and then go.

• Volunteer to deliver meals-on-wheels.

• Collect oral histories from older town residents.

And, if you must eat out:

• Persuade a local restaurant to have a designated "meet people" table.

For more, see the website: www.bettertogether.org.

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