John Donne wrote that no man is an island. If so, why can’t I see the mainland?
A group of people exists that are defined by their lack of a group; the lonely. I’m not talking about being alone or feeling lonely. Everyone can be in those groups for a time without it affecting them adversely. I’m talking about the lonely people who are socially isolated to the point where they can’t function in a group properly.
The person no one wants to play sports with won’t learn the skills necessary to play the game. The man no one wants to talk to won’t learn how to have normal conversations. The child everyone neglects to uplift won’t learn how to accept support from others. We all learn from being around other people. What hope do the lonely have?
Being separated from all social groups can be by choice or by circumstance. I choose to separate myself from groups that are mean-spirited, immature, or would in any way affect me negatively. And many groups exist I can’t choose for myself because I have no commonality with them. I can’t just go to a foreign country and expect them to welcome me in when I can’t speak their language and have no understanding of their culture.
Another cause for separation from social groups is due to exclusion. Some groups can consciously decide who to let in and who to block out. Not having any of the predetermined desirable traits automatically makes a person an outsider to the group. An individual can also be ousted from a group due to random occurrences. Sometimes a person is excluded simply because no one in the group remembers to treat them like a member of the group.
Fixing the Unbroken
Lonely people, like any other group, receive prejudice from the outside world. The world looks down on anything considered to be weak or undesirable. I’ve told people I am lonely before and they either respond by avoiding me or by trying to fix me. I don’t need fixing. Lonely people are not a lesser form of life. They can be just as smart, attractive, fun, funny, and nice as anyone else. The lonely simply need what anyone else needs; someone to talk to and someone to be with.
Take time to understand what the lonely man goes through. Your kind words to him may be the only nice thing he hears all week. He becomes a target for bullies because no one else will defend him. A lonely man who loses a friend often does not have other friends to turn to for comfort. Also, the lonely are often better at recognizing when someone is in need and are more sensitive to other people’s feelings.
Don’t avoid the lonely. Just because someone struggles to make friends doesn’t mean they can’t be a good friend to you.