As we drove up Elm Street, I saw them. Two teenage girls standing in the driveway, deep in conversation. Or, so I thought. The closer we drew, the odder the picture became. The one girl could only be described as animated. Her body language told us that she was engaged with the other person. She waved her hand, first in a dismissive way, then in a question. Her head moved as she spoke. The problem was that the other girl quite obviously wasn’t engaged. She stood slouching, hands stuck in the pockets of her jeans. As our car drew abreast, while the first girl was unaware, this young lady stared at us with a frown on her face. She didn’t look at her friend at all as the conversation continued.
|Photo: Ed Yourdon|
How rude, I thought! Then I saw it. The ubiquitous cell phone, held to the ear of her energized friend, as she talked to an unseen person and ignored the one standing right in front of her. This was not a conversation between two friends physically present with each other, but one between two friends who were distant in locale, yet engaged in spirit, while at least the one other person we could see was left out. Alone, if you will. While her companion enjoyed fellowship with the person at the other end of the call, this young lady who had thought she was with a friend, was in reality completely alone. I have a suspicion that this is happening with greater and greater frequency in relationships today, the suspicion fueled by the number of times I see the exact scenario played out in stores, and restaurants, and parks today.
Have you ever been alone? Really alone? I don’t mean alone in a time and space in which you choose to be by yourself. I’ve done that many times. A walk taken in the late evening to clear the mind doesn’t count; the early morning “hunting trips” in the fall, with rifle held in my hands, but no intention whatsoever of shooting any prey, isn’t on my radar screen tonight. I’m talking about that sense of being alone even when you are with other people. Sometimes with a great number of people.
I have been in a building with thousands, but felt more lonely than at any other time in my life. I have stood with three or four men as they actively debated a matter but, having no interest in the subject under discussion, have been utterly alone with my own thoughts and a wish or two to be somewhere else. That said, I have been blessed to spend my life surrounded by people who have been engaged and engaging. My life is filled with friends and family who care and who show it.
Not everyone is so blessed. The woman who stood before me yesterday, weeping as she inquired if I could help her out, was surrounded by customers in the music store, but her words belied any sense of fellowship with any of us. “I don’t know how much one person can be expected to stand…” The young man, who transferred from a college in another town, said to me just today, “I’m asking myself, ‘What am I doing here?'” He doesn’t think he fits in. On an unfamiliar college campus with fifteen hundred other students, he is alone. I’m pretty sure that we could multiply these two by hundreds and thousands across our nation. All surrounded by people…All alone and lonely. All waiting to be engaged.
I don’t have easy answers. I’m not sure there are any pat replies to, “I’m alone.” The reality is that none of us needs to be alone, and yet, many are. You know some of them. Some, you have seen as you make your daily trip to work, or to the grocery store, or to school. Perhaps the best answer is for us to engage. It will take us out of the sheltered havens that we have built for ourselves and it will leave us uncomfortable. But, they’re not knocking down our doors, so we have to do some knocking down of our own, breaking through their defenses and sharing ourselves.
When our Creator said, “It is not good for man to be alone”, He wasn’t just talking about romance and marriage. He meant, quite simply, that it is not good for man to be alone!We are made in such a way that we need fellowship, made to mesh with others of like mind and similar interests. When we fall down in our responsibility to bear each others’ burdens, to engage if you will, we live in selfishness and pride and perpetuate loneliness for others.
Once more, I must descend from the soap box. I didn’t intend to stay up there for more than a moment, but time flies when you’re blathering on. I have made some decisions, as I rambled on, though. I resolve to listen more, to care more, and last of all (perhaps most important), to use my cell phone less in the presence of others. On second thought, it isn’t the most important, but it’s a start.
I’ve heard they have this new thing called voice mail. It could prove to be an amazing tool, and quite probably should be utilized more often. I’ll try it out…
“We who are strong are indebted to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.”
(Romans 15:1,2~Aramaic Bible in Plain English)
“I cried out with no reply
And I can’t feel You by my side,
So I hold tight to what I know…
You’re here…and I’m never alone.”
(Never Alone~Barlow Girl~American Contemporary Christian music singers/songwriters)
“When you get the chance to sit it out, or dance…
I hope you dance.”
(“I Hope You Dance”~ Mark Sanders and Tia Sillers~American Country Music songwriters)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.