Recently I was reading an article entitled, "Immunity From Being Alone" published in The Economist. It's fascinating in that it notes clearly that loneliness is bad for your health - even as bad as being obese or being a moderate smoker. Apart from health care professionals, who would have thought such?
The article quotes the study of Dr Steven Cole, from the University of California, who writes that although loneliness starts with solitude, it can quickly take on a physiological life of its own. He adds that enforced isolation, brought about by current circumstances, of those who are already living alone may create in people a state of chronic loneliness that is difficult to escape from when things start returning to normal.
As a pastor, these words frighten me! They also outline some imminent pastoral work for us who belong to and lead Churches as we begin to reopen our buildings and re-start our ministries.
Clearly there are no simple strategies, but perhaps as members of congregations we can devise a plan to first identify those who are most vulnerable to being and living alone. From this list, we can work in teams to call, email, and perhaps, while observing safety precautions, even visit and bring necessary supplies. After these initial contacts, parish ministries can join in to help with developing long term and sustainable relationships so that no one is ever alone!
The article notes that random acts of kindness can prevent a downward spiral into loneliness. As we begin to open our doors again, let's be mindful of those who do not return, perhaps because they cannot. And rather than move on, let's work harder as parish communities of faith to leave no one behind, especially not our elderly and most vulnerable.