Some time ago, Rob and I were watching television together (I wish I could tell you it was something highbrow, but it was probably Strictly) when the telephone rang. Rob didn’t look as if he was about to stir so I took the call. The voice on the end of the line was that of an elderly lady, and it quickly became apparent she had dialled a wrong number. I was about to put the receiver down when she said, “Oh my dear please don’t go – you’re the first person I’ve spoken to all day.”
I chatted to her a little longer, gave her my phone number and told her she could ring me any time she wanted to chat. I replaced the receiver with a heavy heart. I couldn’t help but wonder if she spent much of her time dialling random numbers in the hope of a little conversation. And then I wondered just how many lonely people there are in our society: far too many.
Those who are lonely are on God’s heart. The bible says, “God has set the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Our families are important, but the family was never meant to be an end. Rather, our families are meant to be a place to also bless those way outside of our particular circle. Jesus calls us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” or, in other words, to look out for each other.
Our lonely “neighbour” might be a person new to our country, a student far from home or a single parent who has no one to talk to and convinces herself that the normal parenting challenges she is facing are because she is parenting alone. I have heard people say that they have felt lonely even when in a crowd. It may be that they struggle with groups of people because they lack confidence, or find it hard to make conversation because they feel inferior to those around. But we need interaction; humans are wired for connection; loneliness gnaws at our very being.
Having said all of that, it may be that we need to realise that sometimes loneliness is a feeling and not a fact and the answer to our loneliness may be in reaching out to others. That’s not easy, but many have found purpose, companionship and an end to loneliness in coming alongside others who seem marginalised. There will certainly be people who feel just like us, so it may be a good idea to link up with them and arrange to go out for a coffee together. Be bold and be the one to arrange to meet.
Some years ago I spoke at an event called, “To Change the Future”. It was a time where we encouraged each other that we could make a difference in society by reaching out – often in small ways – to others. It takes courage for some of us to do that but once we choose to “step out of the boat” we may find it empowers us and even changes our own lives forever.
I have spent much of my life trying to work out God’s will for my life and, at least in this area, His will is clear: that in our streets, our hospitals, our prisons, our offices and schools, we seek out and befriend the lonely. And when I think of it like that, I realise that it really isn’t a choice – is it?
Dianne Parsons is a speaker, wife, mother and grandmother and often joins her husband in supporting Care for the Family, a national charity which aims to promote strong family life and to help those who face family difficulties. In her new book, You, Me and Coffee, Dianne shares her thoughts and reflections on a wide range of topics, including self-esteem, encouraging others, married life, following our dreams, post-natal depression and ME, vulnerability, masks, the joys of grandchildren, pressures women face today, motherhood, loneliness, ageing, prayer, and much more. You, Me and Coffee is now available from Lion Hudson.