Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lonely, I'm So Lonely

This morning, my pastor's sermon was about Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness and the problem of loneliness. As an illustration, he talked about meeting a man who had spent seven months hiking the Appalachian Trail. He was asked what he found to be most difficult about the trip. Was it having to carry his own food, was it the physical exhaustion of hiking many miles every day, was it the lack of showers and laundry and toilet facilities, was it fear of wild animals? His answer was that the hardest part, by far, was the loneliness. He admitted that what motivated him most to get through some days was the hope that when he reached a shelter for the night, there would be another hiker there. In fact, he said that sometimes when he reached a shelter and it was empty, he would hike the 6 or 8 more miles to reach the next shelter in the hope of finding someone there.

Human beings were designed to be social animals. Even people who tend to be loners like to have company sometimes. I consider myself quite introverted, and I am perfectly content to be alone much of the time. But there are times when I desperately want companionship. I don't even necessarily need someone to talk to, I merely need someone to be with. My husband and I often spend the evening working at our own computers, not talking or interacting, but just being in the same room. Some evenings he has a meeting and I spend the night alone at my computer, and I find myself feeling lonely. Nothing is different about what I'm doing other than the fact that he is not there in the room with me. But the lack of the presence of another human being makes all the difference in the world.

My children are both the same way. They don't always need someone to actively play with them or talk to them, but they like to have someone else in the room to keep them company. If I'm working in the office and my son is in the playroom, he will often ask me, "Mama, do you want to come in here?" or he will simply come in, grab my hand, and pull me bodily into the room where he's playing. And although he sometimes likes me to help him build a block tower or put railroad tracks together, more often than not he just wants me to be there with him. My daughter will loudly protest being put in her crib by herself so I can take a shower or put her brother to bed, but if I put her in her crib while I'm puttering around in the room putting away laundry or making the bed, she is perfectly content to play even if I don't talk to her or pay her any attention. They both simply crave human companionship.

We were designed to enjoy each other's company, to bring joy and comfort to each other by our mere existence. What a gift, to be able to increase another person's happiness and contentment simply by being! I know I'm a happier person because my husband, my children, my family, and my friends are in my life, and I like knowing that I make them happier people because I'm in their lives, too. Just by existing.


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