I have been reading lately about the way that we are isolating ourselves from our neighbors and others as we get more involved with social media. As a result, we are getting more lonely and researchers tell us that being lonely is more hazardous to our health than smoking fifteen cigarettes a day – and that it is more detrimental to our health than obesity. Now that’s hard to imagine, but the latest research confirms that it is true.
Two or three good friends can do more to improve someone’s outlook on life and reduce loneliness than having 4000 friends on social media! We are also told that back in the 1970’s, 60% of people knew, and had relationships with, their neighbors. Now, fewer than 40% of people even know the names of the people that live next door to them, much less have a relationship with them.
I admit that I have fallen a little more into this trap of isolation as well. As I have drawn closer to retirement, I have been much more isolated and have taken up hobbies that really don’t involve other people. I don’t consider myself lonely, but I certainly fall into the category of people that are most affected by changes in social status as we age.
Janet and I spend a tremendous amount of time together and I think we both like that. We rarely see other couples socially, yet we really enjoy the fellowship of people we know at church during worship services and we have awesome neighbors next door to us. Our garage doors and driveway face them, so we see one another in passing many times per week. We have never been out to dinner together, but we know each other’s families and share similar values. It’s nice to know that you have things in common and both families care for and respect one another.
But even with this relationship, it isn’t the same as it was in the neighborhood Janet and I grew up in. We knew everyone on the block and any adult felt free to make sure that you weren’t doing something that would be frowned upon by your parents. People just seemed to be friendlier and it was rare than anybody ever moved out. We lived for almost 18 years in a home on Claremont Ave. on the south side of Chicago and during that entire time, none of the homes on our block went up for sale. That just isn’t the same mindset that people have today.
In church last evening, we were told that the average person lives in 11 different homes during their lifetime and, sure enough, Janet and I are living in our 12th home as I write this. One author has gone so far as to call it a spiritual discipline to stay put in the same house and invest in the neighbors and the community that you live in. I guess that I never thought of it that way, but when I stand back and ponder it, I can see how relationships break down when the average length of time in a home is so much shorter than it used to be.
And who among us rushes to answer the door when the bell rings? It used to be that we would actually have cakes or pies in our home for the express purpose of having something to serve guests who just happen to drop by. Now, we turn off the lights, don’t answer the door, or better yet, install a doorbell system that alerts us to people on the front porch. We then open an app on our smartphones, with a channel of communication to them, and remind them that we are filming their every move. Of course, it was unheard of for someone to approach a home to steal a package that had been delivered on the porch when we were kids.
All this contributes to the fact that we are more isolated and go through life more wary of strangers – and even acquaintances. We also spend more time in our homes, away from other people, than we used to. Social interaction is quickly becoming a thing of the past. For the sake of our health, these things need to change. We should be forcing ourselves to spend more time in community and adding years to our lives. Then, even the random conversation in the driveway with the neighbors will be an event that draws us closer to one another.
Our verse for this evening is from the Psalms. The psalmist had experienced loneliness and petitions the Lord for help. He tells us, in Psalm 25:16-18, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.”
My encouragement this evening is that the Lord made us to live in community with one another. And we are all parts of one large body – each person different but necessary to help make us the best that we can be. My prayer is that we will all re-dedicate ourselves to being better members of our communities and living the lives that God intended for us – together… Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…