I am writing this two days after Thanksgiving in a coffee shop in southwest Georgia. Just a mere 48 hours ago, countrymen across our nation came together to celebrate what George Washington called, “a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer, acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God.” The major reason many of us enjoy Thanksgiving is the joy of community it brings. We gather together with our families, friends, and neighbors to celebrate the blessings of what has happened and what is yet come. We watch parades and football, eat too much pie and turkey, and laugh and enjoy the company of others.
What happens when individuals lose this sense of community? What do people do when gatherings fade and isolationism emerges? This is the question Arthur Brooks posed this weekend in the New York Times. As Brooks stated, “America is suffering an epidemic of loneliness.”
People are created to be with other people. In Genesis, God created Eve for Adam, because it was not good for man to be alone. From the beginning, we were made for community. Yet, in 2018, multiple studies report this trend is changing. Individuals are increasing lonely. Almost half of Americans feel alone or left out. Thirteen percent of Americans say that have no individuals that know them at all. If you took the population of the United States, that would be over 48 million people, that daily walk around this nation and feel completely alone. No wonder 45,000 people have taken their lives this year and another 70,000 have died from a drug overdose.
What heartbreaking stats.
We are not meant to go through life like this. If you are one of these individuals that feel alone, know you have value. You are the imago dei – created in the image of God. Find people in your community that believes this. It is worth the fight.
Brooks goes on to state that people that are isolated are increasingly turning to tribal politics for meaning. “People find a sense of community in the polarized tribes forming on the left and the right in America. Essentially, people locate their sense of “us” through the contempt peddled about “them” on the other side of the political spectrum.”
This too is dangerous. Politics as an idol will never satisfy the soul. Winning an election or getting a policy passed into law can bring temporary happiness, but not everlasting joy. I have sat beside – and heard stories – of dozens of people dying on their deathbeds. None of these individuals dying said they would have more peace if someone could just read them politics. Those people who were about to touch the face of God wanted to pray or be with people they cared for. It was people and experiences that brought comfort, not what President Trump, the news, or Congress were arguing about.
I have a challenge for all of us. What can we do this week to invest in people? What can we do to invest in our community? Maybe it is simply knocking on our neighbors’ doors with some cookies to introduce yourself. My wife and I did that this week and one of our neighbors, who was a lonely elderly lady who just moved in, spent and an hour telling us how grateful she was to have our new friendship. Another way may be taking time to talk with the people you come in contact with. That could be with the coffee shop employee or a grocery store attendant in your town. Maybe it is to take the next month off from social media and spend time playing games or cooking with your family. If we want to change this epidemic, we must invest in people.