Paul McCartney wrote it and asked it in his song back in 1966 called “Eleanor Rigby” (all our old hippies will recall with me that this Beatles song was in the Yellow Submarine film):
“All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people,
Where do they all belong?”
Well, let me assure you that they “come” from among us and among others “belong” to us here at First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro. And this continuing isolation and social distancing is especially hard on them and only adds to their anxiety, sadness and stress.
The epidemic preceded the pandemic
Even before our recent struggles with the coronavirus pandemic the media has been reminding us that our citizens, especially our older ones, are feeling increasingly alone and isolated, detached from family, friends, peers and communities of faith. The January issue of the AARP magazine even spoke of “The Loneliness Epidemic” before we had ever heard of anything called COVID-19.
Some 42 million Americans identify as being lonely. A quarter of our population lives alone, often far from their roots, and nearly half of us are unmarried. Both of these realities only contribute to this epidemic. But you can still live where you have lived all your life, have family and friends and even a spouse nearby, and yet feel forlorn and forgotten.
When loneliness becomes a lifestyle it can even be lethal. Recent studies in the UK reveal that the lonely are 25% higher risks for heart attacks and 32% higher risk for strokes. They are also more susceptible to hospitalizations and emergency room visits.
Called to reach out
As a caring community and as followers of Jesus Christ all of us can help reduce the numbers caught up in this epidemic. There are Eleanor Rigbys and Father McKenzies among us who would welcome a phone call, a note, a gesture of love and concern.
During our required isolation we can make concerted efforts to reach out intentionally to those most isolated and alone. And we will be the beneficiaries along with those we contact. Our pastoral care team at the church is working hard to identify and contact those who seem to be most vulnerable and in need of a friendly voice. But we can never reach all who need to be reached.
So look over your church directory. Think of your neighbors. Remember your fellow members of the church whom you miss seeing and contact them. You will do them and yourself a favor in the process. Or call Dolly Jacobs and she can assign you someone you can befriend, young or old, confined or not.
Exploring options ahead
Back before this current virus pandemic, one of our older members approached me about working with her to see how the church can address this “loneliness” epidemic on more than an individual level.
Are there strategies we can adopt and practices we can put in place that will bless and help those suffering from this malady of loneliness? We hope to get together when we can and explore some options.
Meanwhile, let us do our best as individuals to at least contact those we love and miss within the congregation.
We are together in Christ.