Who needs some of your time?

Isolating has been a key element in fighting Covid but it has also led to a ‘loneliness pandemic’, writes Dave Newton.

Perhaps a moment to ourselves is something many of us crave. In this fast-moving, connected society of ours, even a minute of solace or solitude can be a rare thing.

That said, over recent months many have been acutely aware of the other extreme: the impact that loneliness and separation is having on many in society.

In a recent study by Harvard University, it was revealed that 25 per cent of Americans had experienced loneliness frequently, many recalling serious issues concerning this.

Perhaps most striking was that 61 per cent of those aged 18 to 25 reported high levels of loneliness in the previous three months.

The UK campaign to end loneliness reported that the impact loneliness has on health and society is enormous, with obesity, mortality and mental health all impacted in what is being described as the ‘loneliness pandemic’.

In the UK it is reported that almost 40 per cent of those over 75 years old live alone.

A recent Facebook post high-lighted a story where a woman in her 90s posted a poorly written note through the door of her next door neighbour saying, “Would you consider becoming my friend? I am 90 years old and all of my friends have passed away. I am so lonesome and scared...”

There is no doubt that Covid has a played a huge role contributing to this crisis.

A new language of separation

Words like isolation, distance and separation have become normal in our language. The right thing to do has been to stay away and keep our distance; barriers, such as masks and screens have rightly been placed between us to offer protection, and handshakes and hugs have become few and far between.

Travel restrictions

Added to this, many restrictions have been placed on travel, staying at home has been celebrated, expected and even demanded at times. The complications, limitations and, for many, the fear of travel has meant families have been apart.

People have developed new habits and for many the commute to work is simply a walk downstairs, limiting contact with work colleagues.

Present yet distant (digital impact)

One of the blessings of the last two years has to be the development in digital technology. Zoom is no longer something you simply do down the motorway; it is now a way of meeting, catching up with loved ones and staying connected (other platforms are available!).

Yet despite the triumphs of technology nothing beats wasting time together with loved ones in the same physical space – simply being present together.

So how can the church respond?

I would suggest firstly that we must remember that community and belonging is at the heart of the Christian faith. God reveals himself in very nature as Father, Son and Spirit.

Our God is a God of relationship.

We are called as his people not only to love God but to love our neighbour as ourselves.

It could be argued that the very expression of our love for God is worked out and demonstrated in our love for others. In Romans the Apostle Paul writes, “Be devoted to one another in love,” (Romans 12:10).

He continues to unpack what a devoted life looks like; patient, prayerful, quick to forgive, not proud, hospitable, and living in peace with others.

It is clear that we are called as Jesus followers to be consumed not with our own interests, but to seek to put others’ needs first (Philippians 2).

Who are you aware of that needs some of your time? Someone you can encourage, reach out to, offer a kind word or deed to.

Perhaps you can be the one to make that visit or just be there for someone in their time of need.

How can you look out for those who society often misses, the silent, the unseen or the lonely in your community?          

Dave Newton is Principal of Regents Theological College and is Director of  Elim Training.

First published in the March 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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