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!
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.)
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