In Nazi concentration camps researchers found that the “basic unit of survival was the pair, not the individual.” It was in pairs that prisoners kept alive the semblance of humanity. Pairs stole food and clothing for each other, exchanged small gifts, and planned for the future. If one member of a pair fainted in front of an SS officer, the other would prop him up.
“Survival could only be a social achievement, not an individual accident.” The death of one member of a pair often doomed the other. Women who knew Anne Frank in Bergen-Belsen said that neither hunger nor typhus killed the young girl. Rather, they said she lost the will to live after the death of her sister.
(Excerpted from Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden)
This concept rings true with me. We don’t need to be in a concentration camp in Germany or a work camp in North Korea to recognize that life is better when we have others we trust and depend on—maybe only one other, a friend, a spouse, a child, a sibling–someone who understands and supports us and who we in turn support.
I don’t think we were meant to go through this life alone. The characters in my books come from extended families or find and become a part of a family that provides love and support. In the Shaman Priest, Maria’s first steps to rebuilding her life after the death of her family are made possible by the kindness of a caring neighbor, and later by a best friend she meets on her first day at boarding school. And of course the Kiko and Maggie Perez Mysteries are centered around family and friends. It is the support of the family that allows them to do the hard jobs.
On the other hand, it’s the “bad guys” who fail to develop real, two way relationships, living their self-centered lives, using the people around them, and substituting a “cause” for human interaction.
So, thank you to all my friends–you real, living people I see on facebook or in the grocery store who take the time to say hi, who I know would lend a hand if I fell on my face (and vice versa.) You make my life better every day. Maybe it’s absolutely true to say I couldn’t live without you.