The tiny girl clings tearfully to her mother as she refuses to go to school. She desperately wants to go but fears that death lurks there among her friends. In another part of town, an elegant senior citizen stares out her window, longing for the thing she fears most, a hug from her granddaughter. Lastly, a brilliant and kind high school student sits in his therapist’s chair and whispers, “If this is all there is, I don’t want to live anymore.” About now, you may be wondering, even hoping, that this is the theme of the latest science fiction movie. Sadly, you would be wrong. Each of these is an example of our current reality.
Covid exploded into our awareness with more than a threat of illness; it screamed ‘ISOLATE OR DIE!” and created the terror of connection with those we love. So, we went inside, locked our doors, and lived without the warmth of human contact. We forgot how to talk to the friendly checker at our neighborhood grocery store; we forgot how to gather with friends in the backyard just because it felt so good; we forgot the simple joy of sharing a moment with a friend. We replaced community with the cold “safety” of function by electronics…and the loneliness is killing us.
Statistics indicate that 61% of Americans say they feel lonely. Today 49% of Americans have 3 friends or fewer and 12% have 0 compared to 1990 when 27% had 3 friends or fewer and 3% had 0 friends. Science indicates a strong connection between loneliness and depression, anxiety, obesity, and suicidal thoughts. Human life expectancy is reduced more by loneliness than it is by heavy drinking or obesity, and lonely people are more prone to Alzheimer’s disease. There seems to be a trend here, and it is definitely not a positive one. Isolation is costing us more than we can pay, and we’re seeking destructive alternatives to feel connected. “Opioids feel like love. That’s why they’re deadly in tough times.” Maia Szalavitz. In 1999, there were 8,000 opioid deaths; in 2021, that figure rose to 75,673. Yes, you read that correctly; the death toll from opioid overdose skyrocketed to 75,673 in two years.
I’m writing this, dear friends, because I work with the people suffering from the lack of human connection and the inability to feel safe in the world. We thought we had recovered from the destruction of the Covid pandemic, but we haven’t. None of us has quite found a way to return to the belief that we are safe and life can be good. We can’t find a way to reboot and thrive. So, what’s the answer?
I strongly believe the following quote. “The good life cannot be found in isolation. It’s found through deep and meaningful relationships” Nate Hilgenkamp. I can’t tell each of you what to do because I respect the fact that your life is yours to shape, but I can tell you how I began to rebuild my life and my loving community. I sought the presence and guidance of the loving Creator of all and once again was reminded that He is always there. Knowing that I’m never alone gave me the courage to begin again…and again and again if that’s what it takes.
Please know that I am very human and struggle just as each of you does. As a shy introvert, I do not naturally and easily build human relationships. So, building a new loving and safe world is a challenge, but one I welcome. Closing my eyes in a quiet and peaceful space was my first small step toward the world of my hopes and dreams. I could see more than a new world. I could see more clearly who I am and what I believe. I am a total and complete optimist and absolutely believe that God created me to fly. I believe you were born to fly too. How about it? Come fly with me as we shine a light on this kind and brave new world we are creating.