Loneliness and Community

Loneliness concept illustration. A crowd in a circle with one person alone in the center

Two articles in the “Hartford Courant” of Thursday this week caught my attention in all kind of ways. They were both on page one of section 2, one above the other. The first was entitled “Leaders campaign to tackle loneliness.” The article reports the launch of a new statewide “social connection campaign that aims to combat loneliness through prioritized funding, pro-connection policies, digital reform and intentional collaboration between agencies, federal programs, nonprofit organizations, private partners and municipalities.” At issue is the fact “that more than half of the country’s adult population reports feelings of loneliness and social isolation, two factors that, according to the U.S. surgeon general, can raise the risk of premature death by 29% and increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, substance abuse disorder and other illnesses.” Whoa ….

The second was about a man who is probably the oldest resident of the state of CT at age 108. His name is Al Pierro. The article goes on to recount Al’s daily activities in the residential care home in which he now lives as well various stories about Al’s whole life. It is clear that he was and is a man who loves being with people and finding ways to have fun with people still, even at age 108+.

I couldn’t help but think of these two articles as having an unintentional juxtaposition with each other, one article that speaks of the poor health and life expectancy issues connected with “loneliness” and the other article which speaks of a man of a 108 whose life has persevered in connecting with others, not in loneliness. Perhaps Al Pierro may have had his moments of loneliness, as most do, but his life is not defined by them.

These past few weeks at Sunday Mass, we have been hearing excerpts from the beginning of the Gospel of St. Mark. In it we hear Jesus’ first proclamation that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” As his teaching, healing, and proclaiming continues, it becomes quite clear that he is not speaking of an earthly kingdom but of a heavenly one, a kingdom founded in this world in relation to Him and to others. The Kingdom of God Jesus preaches is relational. “You are no longer a stranger to me. You are my brother. You are my sister. Everyone.” The same is true for us. Everyone is now my brother or sister. And when we accept the call to discipleship in Christ as his disciples through baptism, that relationship moves into the even deeper level of the Church, what we call the Mystical Body of Christ.

I suppose the Church might be numbered among the “nonprofit organizations” that might collaborate in the statewide campaign to combat loneliness (although I think we are technically “for profit” if you count eternal life), but the fact is that this is not a new “campaign” for us. It is one that was launched centuries ago in Israel, when God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son that all who believe in Him might merit eternal life. And in this time, and in this culture of loneliness and isolation, that message needs to be heard even more loudly and more clearly everyday.

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4 Responses to Loneliness and Community

  1. Katrina Corbett says:

    Loneliness and the need to be needed is so important as we gain wisdom as we age. Family and friends are so important and this relationship needs to be nutured. Lead by example. Even our church family is special to our well-being Even going out for an ice cream, phone call, includes them i your own family events. Companionship being important to all people. Be the one that bothers to step up! Peace!

  2. Wendy Abatiell says:

    Loneliness and depression are indeed a mounting problem in our society! One that needs addressing. I know that for me, when I went back to the church my loneliness left me. With God I am never alone! How I pray everyone could realize this. The family I found in the parish fills me with joy! God never fails to provide!

    New programs to help combat the feeling of isolation people feel is a good start. It will hopefully evolve into much more over time as we discover what types of programs work and those that don’t.

  3. Cindy Palmer says:

    Wonderfully expressed! Wish all could read it , believe in it, and live it…as I must continually work on trying! Miss you in VT.

  4. Annemarie says:

    Thank you for your insightful blog posts.

    Sadly, the state’s well intentioned “Campaign to Tackle Loneliness” will not solve the problem.

    Loneliness is not about the lack of people, friends, family, or worldly connections in our lives. It is about the lack of one person in our lives: Jesus.

    It is impossible for anyone who truly lives through, with and in Christ to be lonely!

    Dear Archbishop, I respectfully ask you, as our shepherd, to write a piece for the readers of the Courant about the true cause of loneliness in our world and how following Jesus on the way IS the way to overcome it…

    God bless you. 🛐

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