There is a global crisis of loneliness. Humankind is the loneliest it has ever been.
And it has become one of the biggest risk factors for our health– even more so than diabetes.
We have stopped meeting people in the village square, religious places and now even work. One of the biggest impacts of this pandemic, long after the financial impact, will be this enduring wave of loneliness.
This week, I saw a picture of how it could be different. We took my mum-in-law to breakfast on her 87th birthday. In the time we spent with her, the phone never stopped buzzing and pinging. By the time we left, she had 60 messages and missed calls. She’s not famous but she is renowned for caring for others throughout her life. She has reached out to them consistently. She never forgets a birthday. Once you’re in her book, you never get lost. She’s even still in contact with my ex-colleagues with whom I have lost contact! She’s rich in connections and abundant in love.
Afterwards, I helped her entertain her friends from the retirement village with cake and tea. I stood there watching them chat, laugh and eat cake with abundant joy. I let that picture imprint on my memories. Her legacy will be this lesson in friendship, connection and gathering.
In our individualistic culture, we have lost the art of connection. We have not regarded friendship or casual connections as important. We have focussed on success and measured that success in currency often to the detriment of our friendships. Material wealth means little if it cannot be enjoyed with others. Human connection is a prerequisite for a good life. It doesn’t just happen. It requires prioritisation. It asks us to reach out.
Cultivating friendship and connection should be a priority for anyone who wants to age well. I make it a point to keep the joyful picture in my head. I want that for my life.
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//27 August 2021