Thursday, January 18, 2018
One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Not exactly great poetry, and if you know the source of these lyrics you're as much a geezer as I am. The band was Three Dog Night, although Harry Nilsson wrote the song, and the year was?...1968 -- 50 years ago!
Move along, nothing to see here, although loneliness is profoundly sad for those who feel bereft of friendship and love. It can lead people to despair and even to self-harm.
Yesterday the British government announced a new position and appointment, Minister for Loneliness. No, this is not the realization that Britain made a terrible mistake leaving the European Union. It is a recognition that up to nine million Britons deal with social isolation. In the announcement people were reminded that severe loneliness can be the equivalent of smoking fifteen cigarettes a day, can increase the probability of heart disease, and can result in depression and anxiety. The British parliament actually commissioned a report on loneliness and this initiative will fittingly bring together representatives from all parties to address the problem.
My first reaction was that this is rather odd, and then I thought "why not?" It is ironic that in the time of social media "connection" there are so many people who are socially isolated. God knows how many individuals who commit extreme acts are living in their isolated silos of hatred and alienation.
There are studies which suggest that those who stay connected with others through the years, including involvement in faith communities are less lonely and live longer. Yet we are aware that there is decreasing involvement in clubs and service groups and churches. I certainly saw how important it was for people to get out to Sunday worship even when they were barely able to walk. Actually, son Isaac will have the funeral this week for an elderly woman who was in our row in her wheelchair on his first Sunday recently. I admire those who get their partners with dementia out to church, aware that the social interaction is important, even when memory is failing.
I suppose that I was a minister for loneliness for several decades, at least as part of my calling. Loneliness and aloneness are not the same. Still, what a reminder that we all need community, even though we may be comfortable with our own company.
What do you think of this British initiative? Have you found community through your faith? Is one the loneliest number?