On March 13, 2020, I was finishing the day with a kindergarten class. What was something we were each looking forward to or wishing for this weekend? As we went around the circle, “I wish spring break was starting today!” said one of the students. I took a deep breathe, essentially “spring break” was starting today, but I didn’t say a word because they did not yet know that this would be the day they learned what a pandemic is.
Do you wish you could reach into the future to grab hold of the studies that will be done and books that will be written about this time we’re living in? I do. The events of 2020 are so far reaching, intertwined and complex, it’s hard to really comprehend. When everything shut down so suddenly, there was a part of me that let out a sigh of relief that life was slowing down. Often joked about ‘slow this ride down, so I can get off’ and here it was. The ride was stopped. Now what?
Wide spread reflection, reevaluations, creative solutions, mixed in with real struggles, fears and a very real loneliness. Now, loneliness didn’t make its debut in 2020. As Carl Jung said, “Loneliness doesn’t come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.” With that definition, loneliness has literally been around as long as humanity has. Isolation though has helped to expose the evolving effects of loneliness that ultimately lead to a sense that one is misunderstood, feels that they don’t belong or that they simply are not liked or loved. That’s pretty deep.
Yet, that’s where a lot of people are at. It’s human tendency to self evaluate whether we are in a good place mentally and emotionally. Yet, the real revelation comes when you realize that many people that you deal with throughout the day are not whole. What do you do with that?
The simplest answer, listen. It seems so easy and yet somehow, it’s so perfect. Listen to successful people, to homeless people, to pastors and counselors, to neighbors and strangers, to family and salespeople, to children and seniors. There’s no need to answer, to solve or question. To just take a moment and listen seems to mean the world to people. To just be a landing space for people to communicate the things that seems important to them is enough. No real skill or insight needed. The real secret, have no opinion – just listen, absorb, consider, reflect, honor. That’s it. It seems so simple and yet it’s a life preserver for the lonely.
While I’m certain that the early school break did not look like my student had imagined it would, I do hope that through this time off, she had someone in her life to listen to what was important to her, that they took the time to look in her eyes and hear her heart while they listened to her words. I hope they thought about what she said enough to consider her questions and disappointment, her hopes and fears. And, I hope they took the time to sit in the mystery with her and without judgement or correction, they honored her observations. Because to have someone like that in your life is to never be lonely again.