This article appeared in the January 04, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Something we can agree on

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Alfredo Guevara and his wife, Ashley Wickham Guevara, pose on the steps of their home with their twins, Aldrin and Avery; his mother, Maria Guevara (upper right); Aunt Rosario Martinez (upper left); and cousin Allan Alejandro (center) in Somerville, Massachusetts, on Dec. 2, 2020. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey of 17 countries found that family is the No. 1 factor that provides meaning and fulfillment in 14 of the countries polled.
Trudy Palmer
Cover Story Editor

Good news: People value people. In a survey of 17 “advanced economies” conducted in the first half of 2021, Pew Research Center asked nearly 19,000 adults what in their lives they “find meaningful, fulfilling or satisfying.” 

In all but three countries, the first response was family, defined broadly to include a wide range of relatives. In Spain, South Korea, and Taiwan, family wasn’t the first answer, but it ranked in the top five.

And that’s not the only time people surfaced as a key source of meaning and fulfillment. Friends and community members ranked among the top five responses in 12 of the 17 countries.

Survey-takers noted many other meaningful aspects of life, of course: career, material well-being, nature, health, service, and so on, but Pew describes the most prevalent responses as “finding meaning in others.”

Call me naive, but I find it reassuring that people value people so highly. That’s a firm foundation from which to expand our sense of family beyond bloodlines and extend friendship to those who don’t look – or vote – like us.

For me, the line between family and friends is often blurry. I have friends who’ve been my family for decades now, though there’s not a drop of common blood between us. And I have family members – like my daughter – who are close friends.

My plan for 2022? Blur that line with more people more often.

This article appeared in the January 04, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 01/04 edition
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