My church used to meet at a private school on the west side of Spartanburg. One fall Sunday a couple of years ago I saw that the school had let their students use chalk to write on the sidewalk in support of their football team. Since I was greeting that day I walked around looking at the different messages. "Go Knights," "Fight until the very end," "All we need is a little bit of football and a whole lot of Jesus," were some of the messages written on the sidewalk that morning. Then I saw a message apart from the other ones. It was partially hidden and it broke my heart when I read it. It said simply, "I’m lonely." This is a school that charges tuition, so the parents are usually doing okay financially and most often both parents are in the home. But at least one of the students that day felt so alone that they wrote it on the sidewalk.
In most instances chronic loneliness is a condition that goes undetected. Can you imagine how much loneliness there must be in nursing homes today? Recently I was talking to a lady whose husband has been in a nursing home for several years. She told me she has not been able to see him without a window between them since March. I could tell in her voice she was getting angry at not being able to visit or touch her husband for five months, and counting. COVID’s impact, beyond the deaths and sickness it has produced has probably caused more loneliness than anything in history. I don’t know if "broken heart" is ever listed as a cause of death on any death certificate, but I’m sure it is one of the biggest causes of death in America today.
After I hung up the phone with the lady I was talking to, I pulled out a card and wrote a note to her husband. I asked my staff to also write him a short note. We all know and love him at our office so I got immediate buy-in from them. I know it won’t totally erase the loneliness he must be feeling, but the note of encouragement he receives from us may make his day just a little brighter.
I have an idea. For those of you reading this and that may be retired and at home, not able to do too much because of the pandemic, why don’t we all resolve to write a note to someone who is not able to have visitors right now. Call a nursing home or hospital and ask for a first name (HIPPA will not let a nurse reveal full names) you can write to. Let them know there are people who care and who are praying for them. Since they can’t have visitors, this will be a way for them to have contact from someone on the "outside." It may help to keep them from dying of a broken heart.
My day job is to help people invest their money prudently. But when you’re lonely, all the money in the world will not make you any happier. Just ask people who knew Howard Hughes. So let’s bring some joy to people who can’t get hugs from loved ones right now. Let’s help stamp out loneliness.