Combat Loneliness!

As the sun set last night, I found myself driving my son to his friend’s house. I made the turn onto the boy’s street and immediately my eyes drifted to a house on the left. What I saw inside was so welcoming, I had to slow the Suburban down! I couldn’t wait to drop my son off – “Bye, son – I love you too!” - so I could quickly turn the car around, and drive by this home again.

As I slowly approached the house, I gazed into the window again. In a way, I felt like the paparazzi! Through the front window I saw a huge dining room table filled with 4 couples – of all ages! Dark hair, gray hair, glasses … I could see their bodies leaning inward, engaged in conversation. I could almost hear the laughter and smell the food.

I thought to myself, good for them! I wish more people could see this beautiful picture! I even wished I had my camera. Then reality hit, as a car approached me from behind, and I sped up and drove back home.

What stops people from hosting like this more often? We all crave relationships and connection! There was a Social Isolation in America study done recently that showed that on average, the American adult has only two close friends. It went on to say that 80 percent confide in family only! There are so many lonely people right in our neighborhoods, schools, work places and churches that would love to be invited over for dinner. I’m guilty of not always thinking of the lonely person myself! And sometimes it’s hard to know, really, who is lonely?

A friend recently asked me, in your twenties, what drew you to God? I immediately replied, “loneliness.” Having never voiced that before, I’ve been thinking about my response these last few weeks. I longed not only for God, but also for a deeper human connection. The changes I made had to start with me. I could not rely on anyone else to soothe that lonely feeling inside. I learned to go to God first, but then He also showed me that I needed others.

A book that my husband and I have been reading is Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. Although the book is rather long with many graphs, it shows how we’ve become a less social society since the 1950’s. I realize that we live in a much different society now, but if this trend continues, the busier we become, we cut more and more people out of our lives – where are we headed? How will we make it without each other?

Who’s going to help when the hard times come? Do we retreat to our loneliness or do we reach out for help? Do we turn to television and the internet for our friendships, or do we have real life friends who will come when we call, or when our family is in need?

I personally put the following steps into place in my own life, starting twenty years ago, and still resort to them now, as a married woman!

Open Your Doors
Learn to open the doors of your home, in whatever season of life you are in. Introduce yourself to others and invite them in. Think about what ministry can take place in your home. I can think of so many ways of getting involved with people and life – right in our very own homes!

Our friend, Scott, opened his home to a bunch of public-school 3-5th grade boys for a couple of years. These “Wise Guys” played basketball, ate snacks, and learned spiritual lesson for boys. Years ago, my good friend, Carrie, went into different friends’ homes and taught 5th grade girls about relationships. She was my true inspiration for starting my Balcony Girls group. Donnetta opens her home to young moms on Wednesday mornings, just to be friends to these ladies! Of course many churches offer care groups, which take place in the home setting. The ideas are never-ending, really. You take your passion and FLY with it!

Become a Friend
Don’t sit back and mourn because you think no one cares about you, or your family! Start getting involved in other people’s lives – by caring about them! Ask a lot of questions – show interest in their lives and when the time is right, invite them over for a meal!

Friendship offers benefits to our emotional and physical health. Loneliness can cause high blood pressure and problems with sleep. Lonely people are even at higher risk for Alzheimer’s later in life! Being open and authentic with others will actually help combat loneliness.

Lose Your FEAR!
We’ve learned ourselves, and taught our kids, how fear robs and steals. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real and it’s snatching lives right and left. People do not want to be vulnerable, because they’ve either been burned or rejected. As we grow in life, I say – get over it! Learn from bad experiences – read, pray, find healthy friends. Don’t let a bad experience squelch future relationships that have great potential!

Be Yourself
Entertaining in our home has become easy for my husband and me. Early on we decided: We are who we are. When we invite people over, they get the real us. We are willing to open up, share, be vulnerable, and not pretend. People are attracted to our openness, but sometimes they are afraid to be open themselves because it leaves them feeling vulnerable.

We know we are not self-sustaining. We know we need accountability and closeness with others. We know that we find value in friendships. We’ve learned to offer help – and we’ve learned to ask for help!

The lesson for myself in this post today is to be aware of others. But to the person who finds herself lonely and isolated today, I remind you of this: To be a friend is to have a friend!

Let’s all pitch in to help combat loneliness!

(Photos taken one year ago in Dublin. Once Paul took the top photo, it stuck in my head as a perfect picture of loneliness; long alley off of Grafton Street; fence at Mt. Joy Square. For a related post, read Alienated, here.)

STAY TUNED FOR NEXT POST: Company Conversation, Book & Apron Giveaway!


Barb said...

Great post! We went to pick our son up from his fast food job one day and decided to have lunch while we waited. Just as we were finishing, his manager (whom we did not know) sat down at the table next to us, so we invited him to come over to ours. Turns out he's divorced and goes home to an empty house every night. He talked the whole time he ate, but was very interesting, and thanked us quite seriously for inviting him to our table when he finished. So--you never know what a person's situation is until you reach out, even in simple ways.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this post! Very inspiring!

Anonymous said...

You are the best! If we do just one thing that you suggested we all would be happier.
Keep telling us to open our doors. Maybe all us shy people, will finally let someone in.

Gena Larson said...

Another great and encouraging post as always. Thank you for your insight and challenge.

:..Rebekah..: said...

Oh, what a wonderful post! Very encouraging and challenging....thank you.

Dawn said...

You are so wise and what you've said here is so important. I'm inspired to reach out to more people after reading this.

~nanashouse~ said...

Thank you for your candor. My parents are ailing and very much alone. It seems at times that my husband and I are the only close touch with humanity that they have. Who else can change your soiled linens without coming in "close, personal contact" with you? The body of Christ can do so much more to reach out and combat lonliness! All we have to do is look across the street or behind us in the pew. Bless you for your messages.

Org Junkie said...

Sandy you continue to amaze me with your lessons. This one really spoke to me, thank you!!

OKGardners said...

You will be happy to know that I have started cooking cakes and delivering them to folks to surprise them. That is my first step in reaching out to others.

I plan to make 4 more cakes in the next few weeks. We are in a new home in a new neighborhood. Lots of younger couples with little kids. We are retired. I have time and the young Moms don't. Thanks for the nudge!

Betty in Oklahoma

gracemercyandpeace said...

This has to be one of my favorite posts of yours : )

deb meyers

gracemercyandpeace said...

and P.S., I'm searching for "Bowling Alone" now.

I'm reading "Last Child in the Woods", a study of what removing our children from nature and free play outdoors has done to our children and American society. Seems like they might dovetail...


Susie said...

This post is such a beautiful reminder to me to keep reaching out to others. I have found myself making excuses of not having people over lately because my husband is working in another city most of the week. We will soon be together again, but I still have opportunities on the nights he is home to share a meal with others.

I don't comment much, but I truly love stopping by for visits and inspiration. Blessings to you an your family!

Donnetta (momrn2) said...

Wonderfully beautiful post! We have been having a lot of discussions in our home of how it is not "standard practice" to be in each other's homes like it used to be. Something which we are working on changing in our own!!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Sandy, I haven't been by in awhile and I just love this post. So true! I think we are definitely becoming more hermit-like as a nation. Don't know our neighbors all that well. I see how things have changed so much since I was a girl. We used to get together back then all the time for meals and friendship with others. I'm trying to learn more how to reach out to others instead of just sitting back & waiting for it to happen. It really has been a wake-up call for me, moving to a new city 2 years ago. I know I have to be more proactive now on being friendly myself. Thanks for the reminder...again!

And thanks for the Pandora.com recommendation. That looks like a very cool site!


ValleyGirl said...

Awesome post, Sandy! I think this is becoming a serious problem ~ and I, myself, as a blogging SAHM, am finding this to hit home a little too often. I'm a little too content with my cyber-friends and I have to confess, my real life friendships have suffered since I started blogging. I've always been somewhat comfortably solitary (only child syndrome!), but it's definitely gotten worse. I don't want to give up blogging, but I've certainly cut back in recent weeks in an effort to live a little bit more in the 'real' world.

Pam said...

Great post, Sandy. You always inspire and challenge me. It's a good thing. Thanks!

Tammy said...

Oh wow...this was SO meaty. I echo the commenter above- you always inspire and challenge me!
I often battle loneliness, being shy by nature...or hesitate to invite others in often because of fear...
We do belong to a wonderful home Bible study with a couple families from church...and seeing how gracious the young host family is has also inspired me!
Thank you for yet another wonderful post!

GiBee said...

Both you and Donnetta have me praying and thinking of how I can carve time into my crazy life to reach out to others on a regular basis (like young moms, etc.). Thanks for this post!

Fuschia said...

As I commented on Donnetta's blog, this truly spoke to me!! I have been ignoring a prompting in my heart to invite some neighborhood ladies to tea (or coffee)just because. THIS is the week I do it rather than merely think about it! Thanks for the kick in the pants I needed =)

Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

I was just writing on my blog about how I had become a crazy woman in the effort to make friends. I have only been on this base 5 days but I am already feeling a little nutty - I need friends!! I need the support, the fun, and the blessing that friends bring. Our family will always be far away, as long as we are in the Air Force, so our friends become our family.

I may be aggressive in my friend making AND being ( in a good way, of course!) but I must - it's crucial to me. So, I get over myself and GO FOR IT!! :)


Terri said...

You inspire me! I will have to see what I can come up with this month.
Thanks for a wonderful blog!

see you there! said...

Truly a wonderful post. I've had a long career in health care and I find that the one common thing patients need is for someone to listen to them. Just listening, not doing anything else, improves their state of mind if not their physical problem.

Ask someone a question and really hear what they have to say.

Thanks for bringing the issue of lonliness to our attention.


Mrs. B. said...

Another wonderful post. Those pictures are breath-taking. Lovely.

~j~ said...

what a great encouragement and reminder. I am humbled by your words and realize just how negligent I have become in this area. Thank you for the gentle reminder.

Amie said...

This post has a lot of meaning for me. Being authentic, open, and giving to others are very special gifts we can give. There is also a huge return on the investment! Thank you for the encouragement!

A Woman Who is: said...

a little late in commenting, but I loved this post and it is speaking right to my heart. I was sharing with a friend the other day about my adjustment to my recent empty nest. I was mentioning how a lot of my friends are now going back to work, and I told her I really had no desire to do that...and this is what she said...availability, stay available, nobody hardly is around anymore just to be there for people...that really got me thinking...not to rush into more activities, but to watch and see who and what God wants me to be available for???