Are You Lonely?
Do You Have a Community in Your Life?
If your answer to the question of the title is “yes”, then likely your answer to the question above is “no”.
Loneliness is a serious problem. When we Google the word “loneliness”, we see over fifty-four million results. See over fifty-nine articles on the topic of loneliness here. To quote just one of these articles:
Researchers estimate that some 60-million Americans—one fifth of the population—suffer from the pain of loneliness. And with millions of Baby Boomers now facing a radically shrinking social world as they retire from the workplace, see their children disperse, lose friends and family members to illness and death, the rising tide of loneliness has all the hallmarks of a widespread and costly epidemic.
Loneliness is Inevitable
If we’re honest with ourselves, we will acknowledge that in the deepest part of us, we all feel lonely. Nobody can, with 100% clarity, really understand how we feel. That makes us feel alone and feeling alone is the most painful feeling of all.
Social media exacerbates this problem because it shows our friends and cohorts having happy, exciting lives–all the time. We don’t see their loneliness, their insecurities, their fears because those things are rarely shared. No amount of Facebook’s asking “What’s on your mind today?” is likely to encourage us to share, with our 350+ “friends”, that we feel alone. And if it does, and we are tempted share our loneliness, what if nobody responds in a way that makes us feel heard and understood? Why would we dare risk that?
Louis CK talks about this universal deep sadness. He says it is actually poetic. This makes sense to me; writing poetry is a way of elevating our emotions, packaging them and placing this gift in the hands of someone we hope will understand. We need to share our stories. We connect with others in this sharing. It is in not being able to share them that our loneliness is found.
Loneliness is Avoidable
In a community, there is not one, not two, but much more people who hear how we feel, who have our backs, who are committed to the relationships, who share camaraderie. I’m convinced there is no more beautiful place on the planet than a real community.
By “community”, I don’t mean a group that calls itself a community before it has earned the designation. I mean a real community. They are as different as a town playground is from Disney World. However, it’s nearly impossible to know the wonder of being a part of a real community until we have this experience. Being a part of a community radically changes our experience of life. Every painful thing in life is more bearable when you are a part of a community.
Where There is No Community…
St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, put love — and you will find love.” The same can be said of community. Where there is no community in your life, why not build one? Here is a simple formula to use.
- Find a local bookstore or café that has space for gathering. Speak to the owner and ask if you can hold a book club there once a month. Don’t limit yourself to bookstores and cafés. Maybe your local library will give you a room for a few hours in an evening or an afternoon? Where else could you hold a book club in your area?
- Select a book that will spark good conversation, one that you resonate with. The book will attract people who resonate with you.
- Advertise the book club; the book title, time and place, with a little tent card on the counter by the cash in the location and at other places. Say that participants don’t have to read the book before the first meeting; this will be a get-acquainted meeting. Don’t ask them to RSVP, just let them show up. If your first effort fails to attract people, at least you can enjoy a cup of coffee and read a good book. Then keep trying.
Repeat this process at several locations in your area to maximize your chances of attracting a group of people that you can build community with. Pick up a copy of Sounding the Drum and read it so you will recognize what is happening and can guide the group as it evolves into a community.
Try This Idea
Advertise a “Community Building Exercise”. Use Sounding the Drum as your basis for discussion (there is a Guide for this in the Appendix), which means you’ll learn about community building as you are involved in community building. It’s important to secure the commitment from the participants during the first meeting. Community building begins with commitment.
You’re Not Alone
Join our Facebook Group, Sounding Our Drums Together where you can ask questions, share issues, and collaborate with other community builders to find inspiration and creative solutions. As much as possible, and for as long as possible, I’ll be answering questions there. Take advantage of this and build a community now.
What do you have to lose? Loneliness? A feeling of aloneness?
And if you follow these steps to a wonderful experience of community building, please post your experiences here, too, so others can see your story.
Photo Credit: Lori