The past few years have shown us how common and widespread loneliness can be. Even before the pandemic, more than half of American adults classified themselves as lonely. And four in 10 adults reported feeling less attached to their community. Somewhere along the way, we started to spend more time on our computers and phones, and less time together. Neighbors stopped knowing neighbors. Life became a never-ending to-do list, rushing from one moment to the next. We exist together as humans, but we’ve never felt more alone.
Earlier this year, the issue triggered an urgent call to action. Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, has proposed a national framework to rebuild social connection and community, and policymakers are rallying together to create legislation to combat the country’s epidemic of loneliness and promote social connection.
Repairing our social fabric may seem like an almost insurmountable task, better left to the powers that be. In fact, studies show we routinely misjudge the impact of small acts of kindness, yet people who interact more with those around them—strangers on the street, loose acquaintances—tend to be happier than those who don’t.
Here at Papa, we know that small gestures add up. That’s why we started Be a Pal Week. We can work together to build community with everyday efforts that add up to a renewed sense of belonging. We’ve made progress as a nation in recognizing the effects of loneliness and other social drivers of health. It’s time we come together to do something about them.
What is Be a Pal Week?
Last year, we began the tradition of Be a Pal week with a challenge: do one thing that brings us closer together or helps someone. Thanks to our Papa people, Papa Pals, and members, its impact was felt far and wide in communities across the country. We helped a mobile home community with hurricane clean up and delivered lunches to those in need across our home state of Florida, spent time with older adults and Veterans around New York City, assisted with an annual fundraiser for a domestic violence shelter in Kansas City, and organized a donation of clothes and toys for an orphanage in Mexico. We forged connections and meaningful relationships with others while doing good.
This year’s Be a Pal Week will take place September 25 through October 1. The week isn't just for Papa Pals, employees, or members. It’s for everyone. It helps us encourage big and small actions that foster connection and community, because we believe anyone can be a pal, and everyone needs one.
Everyday people hold the power
We believe helping others can be easily incorporated into our daily lives. Like last year, we’re giving our employees a day of paid time off to volunteer with a local community organization, and we look forward to seeing the results of our collective efforts. Living out the spirit of Be a Pal Week can be as simple as taking a walk with a neighbor, calling a friend to check in, inviting a new colleague for coffee, or even delivering a friendly hello to a stranger on the street.
We know that play can be instrumental to building strong relationships and forming a sense of community, so this year, we’re gamifying connection-building with Be a Pal Bingo—an interactive bingo board composed of 24 community-building activities—with prizes for select winners across our internal team, Papa Pal community, and broader network. The activities within range from helping a friend with something unexpectedly to checking in on an older adult to making a donation. Each act is intentionally broad because we know that in order to make a meaningful difference, we need to provide support and offer connection in the way each person needs it.
All of these moments help us lay the foundation for ongoing connection and community—and take us out of our shells for our own benefit and for those around us. When we build connection in numbers, the ripple effect of our effort is greater than the sum of its parts.
Improving community means improving health
Be a Pal Week shows us the true power of putting connection and community first. Every moment we take to give back to our communities has the potential to improve our collective wellbeing. Social drivers of health—including loneliness—account for upwards of 80% of health outcomes. We need each other for our health.
We see this firsthand in the support Papa Pals provide our members: after joining Papa, 60% of severely lonely participants experienced clinical clinical improvements, moving them to a lower category of loneliness, and improved their quality of life outcomes. By addressing social drivers of health more intentionally, we as everyday people, and our healthcare industry as a whole, can shift how healthcare happens. Many times, the care we need most is built on connection, right in our own communities.
Care isn’t just a visit to the doctor. It’s taking the time to experience life together and supporting each other, as humans. That’s what being a pal is all about. It’s up to all of us. Together, we can renew our sense of community and ensure everyone who needs a pal has one.
Our Call to “Be a Pal”… Now and Beyond
Join us for Be a Pal Week on October 10-16 and help us create a more connected society together.
Creating Healthy Connections: Papa’s Community Standards
Papa’s community standards include kindness, integrity and safety for each of our employees, members and Papa Pals.