Just yesterday my dad, once again, expressed how lonely he feels.
"No one calls, no one comes around. All I have left are my memories," he said.
Then, he proceeded to tell me the story of a neighbor that lived a mile down the road from where my grandparents did when my dad was a boy. The neighbor was ill for a time and, for several weeks, three times a day, my grandmother would prepare a meal for the neighbor, and send my dad to deliver it.
"Three times a day," he said, "I'd run that mile to take 'Uncle Kit' a meal...a plate of eggs and a sausage cake for breakfast, a pint of soup with a piece of bread for lunch, then whatever Mom made us for supper...three times a day...and I never thought a thing about it. That's just what folks did. Now days...they won't walk across the street to say 'hello' to you or ask you how you're feeling. They don't care."
That's how he feels about it and, sadly, in the experience he's had since my mother passed away nearly a decade ago, he's pretty much right.
"You know," he said, "I heard on the news the other night that more old people die of loneliness than anything else."
"And I believe it," he added.
"I know, Dad," I said. "I wish there was something that I could do about it, but there just isn't. It's a heart issue and caring about others has to come from within."
Something is terribly wrong in our world today, While I do feel that elderly people often feel the effects of loneliness most often...especially after their children are grown and gone, and they lose a spouse...because they do have so many memories and no one left to share them with...but, it seems that people everywhere now days feel lonely. Even those who are in contact with tons of people on a daily basis say they feel lonely...and they do. Loneliness is epidemic.
This morning, before I even got out of bed, (I was reading it on my Ipod), I read an article by Erin over at The Humbled Homemaker entitled "When Your Online Community Is Crowded And Your Real-Life Community Is Lacking" and guess what she was talking about? Loneliness.
It was an excellent article (please read it) and two things struck me...
# 1- Even though I already knew it, and have already stated so once, the article reaffirmed to me, that, yes, loneliness truly is epidemic. People everywhere, whether they are alone, or not, are feeling lonely inside and those feelings are real.
# 2 - For the past few years I've felt like I was behind...lacking...like I was less-than, because I'm not where I used to be in ministry. I mean, I want nothing more than to minister to hurting women, but I'm thinking that ministering to them face-to-face, one-on-one, if need be, might be right where God wants me to be at this season in my life
You see, there was a day when I, like Erin, and many other women that I follow online, love, greatly admire, and respect, had a fairly large online community. This was back in the days before Blogspot and Facebook. This was way back there in the days of Yahoo Clubs and Groups. (Anyone remember those?) I was also writing for several Christian women's magazines back then. (The kinds that were made of paper and arrived in your mailbox on a regular schedule.) :)
It was in 1998 when I was asked, by the founder of the Proverbs 31 Woman Yahoo Club, to take over the 1000+ member community...which I did. I loved the Proverbs 31 Woman! I wanted nothing more than to, over my lifetime, become a living example of her, and it was truly an honor to be asked to head up such a community...and,by the way, I met many beautiful women of God there...many of which are still close friends today (some off-line, as well as some that are on-line, but have never met...yet), but, in the midst of all that, it didn't take me long at all to find out that many within the walls of that community were not there for the same reason that I, and some of the other ladies' were.
In no time at all I was spending up to 12 hours a day putting out brush fires, and battling all sorts of weird things. Stuff, that, in reality, had nothing to with the Lord's work at all. I mean, it started out looking like it did. I would think that I was helping someone, but in the end, it would turn out to be some set-up thing created to cause strife and negativity within the group, or to just flat keep us from focusing on the purpose for which we were assembled...and it would wear me down to the point I couldn't even function. Eventually, I learned the truth. Most of the brush fires that I was fighting were being started by members of a witches coven that had joined the group to purposefully stir up trouble from within.
In 2002, the group was transferred to Yahoo Groups and became private. The private group, Proverbs 31 Woman (2), was for women only and was based on the teaching found in Proverbs 31:10-31. It was created for the sole purpose of offering Christ-centered encouragement and accountability to those that were seriously seeking to fulfill the unique role that God created for us as women. We had a great base of women and the community operated successfully in that forum until I, lured away by relationships and emotion, allowed people into the group that were only there for self-seeking purposes, rather than to grow in the foundations of Biblical principles. (Silly me! I honestly believed, at that time, that every woman who expressed an interest in the Proverbs 31 Woman and growing in Biblical womanhood was serious.)
Technically, the Proverbs 31 Woman (2) is still in existence today. It's there. It's members are few, but no one ever visits. Like everyone, and everything else, it sits there, lost in the loneliness of countless online communities...communities filled with people who chat and communicate over electronic devices the world round, but, in reality, can never connect in a real life, flesh and blood way...unless...they go out of their way to do so...which some of the ladies' out of that original Proverbs 31 Woman community have done in the past, and oh! What blessed memories we share!
Now, I suppose that a lot of what I've written here sounds cynical, but I honestly don't mean for it to. I'm just sharing my thoughts and a bit of my online and real-life story.
The point I'm trying to make is that there is something wrong in our world today when we, as a people, are inundated with communication of every kind and in touch with people from all over the world in a moments notice, yet, everywhere around us, real-life people...people in our own lives...people within our own real-life communities, our friends, our neighbors, people within our own families...are being crushed under the weight of loneliness and no one seems to care.
Do we care? Do you care? Do I really?
Forget the formulas and programs! What can we do within our own real-life sphere of influence to make a change in someone else's life today?
(And, please, when I say 'real-life'...no one has better on-line friends that they've never met than I do...and, yes, they're real, but they're not right here...they're not next door...they're not living and breathing within a stone's throw away...you know what I'm saying...don't you?)
Loneliness is a very real problem in our world today. Think of something that you can do to help lighten the burden of a lonely person near you...
- take them a meal...
- take them a plate of cookies...
- stop by and spend a few minutes visiting with them...
- stop in and just ask them how they're feeling today...
...do something...anything...to let them know that somebody is thinking of them and that people still care.
Until Next Time...