Our community – observations

Mark Epstein

“The mission of the National Health Association is to educate and empower individuals to understand that health results from healthful living.” Our mission statement begins with this sentence. When I read this, of course I agree, but for me our organization has been much more. It has been part of my family.

When we were kids, my mom and dad would load us into the station wagon every summer and drive across the country to go to the “Convention.” Back then, the NHA was known as the American Natural Hygiene Society, and we referred to ourselves as “hygienists.” Every year, from 1948 to 2000, we held our Convention and I would guess that between my grandparents, my parents, my sisters and me, we’ve probably been to every one of them. And we weren’t alone. Hundreds of members would travel from all over the world to join together for our Conventions. New faces and old faces would greet us each year, and for those days, we were all part of a larger family. A community.

But things changed In 2001, the Board of Directors voted to skip our Convention as a result of limited available resources It was not an easy decision, but it seemed prudent to skip that single year, and to work to build our strength for the future. Unfortunately, with the enormous challenges of the post 9/11 world impacting the sustainability of so many non-profits, we wound up skipping our Convention again in 2002 and 2003.

During this time, the work of the NHA has continued We’ve published magazines, hosted seminars, defended fasting from legal challenge, championed excellent new books and videos, researched health, built our website, supported organic food, and cared for our members. To make all this possible, we even moved our offices to reduce overhead This is all good. But we haven’t had a Convention. And, without our Convention, our community has lost some of its connection.

Well, it’s time to change that. It’s time to build our community, and it’s time for everyone to get involved. You see, although the first action in our mission statement is to educate, the second action is perhaps even more important–to empower. One of the ways to empower people is to arm them with knowledge, with the truth. But possibly even more important is to nurture them, to guide them, and to invite them into our community.

With all the conflicting information in the media surrounding the issue of food and health, it’s easy to understand how people could become confused. The pharmaceutical industry bombards us with advertisements, the food biotech companies force genetically modified foods into our stores, and the agriculture industry dumps more and more chemicals onto our produce, polluting our land, water, and air.

In the middle of all of this, some of us have discovered that health is the result of healthful living. We choose to eat plant-based foods as close to their natural state as possible. We choose to drink clean water, breathe fresh air, get enough sleep and exercise, develop positive relationships, and we choose to enjoy the beauty of life. We are members of the NHA, and together we form a community. And we are here to share this with others.

So, how do you fit into our community? This is an important question, for the health of the community depends on the participation of its members. And the community grows by building connections. Let’s start by having another Convention, gathering together with each other, nurturing our relationships, learning, sharing healthy food, and building for the next generation.

How would you like to participate in the community? In our community! What would you like to see our community do? How can you help our community grow? How can you be of service? We need your input and energy. Write us letters and send us emails with your ideas. Together we will change the world. See you at the Convention!

Mark Epstein lives in Chicago, is a gentleman gardener in North Carolina, and is the President of the Board of Directors of the National Health Association.

COPYRIGHT 2003 American Natural Hygiene Society

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