Time To Reach Out

Season may be lonely one for people without people


Making Ripples

This holiday season, in between family gatherings and special programs, gift-giving and volunteering, feasting, decorating and celebrating, remember the ones who are not in the room with us. There are people of all ages who are lonely and need a friend during this time of season’s greetings — or silence, if nobody gives you a greeting.

People with large, close-knit (or close by) families may not empathize with loneliness during the holidays. Some folks need an escape, not another hug! Yet there are people who didn’t get any holiday cookies, Thanksgiving meal, greeting card or visitors. It’s easy to overlook the people who aren’t there with us: the widowed neighbor, the college student with nowhere to go during break, the young adult friend without any close family, the elderly refugees whose families died in a war, the disabled family member who is often home alone.

In the era of social media, as they say, we are more connected and lonelier than ever before. Screen time has replaced real communication, real friendship and face time. Contrary to expectations, multiple studies have found that loneliness is not an experience exclusive to seniors; wired teens, young adults and middle-aged adults may feel loneliness, too. It spans the lifetime, and solutions are similarly non-intuitive. The best antidote to loneliness is not necessarily being surrounded by strangers, which seems to have little effect, but having meaningful social relationships.

If you’re not lonely, seek out the absent people, whether that’s family, friends, acquaintances, roommates or neighbors. Look in the obvious places, like retirement homes and foreign exchange student programs, but don’t forget the not-so-obvious ones. Maybe you have a friend you don’t see often, and they rarely have holiday plans. Who is being unintentionally excluded from your life for these next two months?

Invite them to join you for an already-scheduled outing or family get-together if you feel you’re too busy to plan something new. Or try to work meaningful relationships into your daily routine or career. As a teen, I delivered newspapers and noticed a lot of homebound widows. They were lovely people without people. So they became “my” people. We shared tea and cookies, we danced polka, exchanged cards, and I visited them in my prom dress before going to prom.

Everyone we love today was a stranger at some point.

The holidays are often centered around religion, but it’s also a great time to learn about someone else’s traditions or to do good work that’s not based in any religious organization. So don’t let religious differences keep you from inviting a lonely person into your life.

If you’re lonely, this is an opportunity. Join a club as a hobby or volunteer someplace that makes you feel good. Invite your friends or neighbors to do a special activity in your home or around town. You never know when someone next to you is lonely! Maybe they have been waiting for your invitation. What have you got to lose? The world needs all of us to make it a better place.

Amanda Bancroft is a writer, artist, and naturalist living in an off-grid tiny house on Kessler Mountain. She and her husband Ryan blog about their adventures and offer tips to those wanting to make a difference at www.RipplesBlog.org.

Categories: Making Ripples