Who’da thought it?

Cripes , crimminy and fish hooks! Who would have guessed? The big brains up there in big-brain land (Oxford) have carried out a survey and have discovered that people with mental illness and depression are more likely to be unhappy than anyone else.

They have also discovered that the next cause of unhappiness is eating alone (which is a thing most people who live alone do just about every day, but that fact seems to have eluded them). And the amazing revelations continue – who’d have guessed that having no social interaction with friends and neighbours would impact our happiness? Phone calls are, apparently, better than nothing but not as happiness-inducing as personal contact.

The conclusion is, amazingly, that ‘Nothing beats the power of human interaction’.

It reminds me of something I read once, something along the lines of ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Maybe, just maybe, when we were created, love was the motive, the desire and the purpose. Maybe love and only love will make us happy.  In the article I read about this survey, the word ‘loneliness’ wasn’t mentioned but the survey  reveals  the root cause of unhappiness to be  loneliness. There. If they’d asked any one of us, we could have saved them all the expense and effort.

More interestingly, in this Oxford survey, it was revealed that having good interaction on things like Twitter, Instagram etc does not add to our happiness quotient, nor does it detract from our happiness when we don’t have access to these platforms. In other words, electronic contact has no effect at all on our continued emotional well-being. It’s a blah-blah nothing in our lives, no matter how much time it takes up. Ooops. I wonder if blogs are the same? And I wonder if this is the loneliest time the world has ever known?

I’ve spent 26 years as a single person, not always lonely but always essentially solitary. It gives me some insight but not necessarily any answers.  In the last 4 years I’ve been looking for a role that will fulfil some need somewhere. Serve a purpose.  The church has little interest in working with the not-so-young, or women, unless it’s compiling rotas or making cakes. If you still have energy and ability, and creativity, you have to find something to do outside the church! Weird, eh?

My town is full of single and retired people, we  have a growing singles problem as marriages break down, there’s a  growing alcohol and drug dependent community, there’s depression and teenage suicide. And my church is planted right in the middle of all this. We care for everyone, especially the outcast and lonely. Last night I heard that the Intern programme at our church is the only one in this area. The words that struck me were ‘Someone had to do it’. Maybe someone has to do something about the lonely – ALL the lonely people (thanks, Beatles)

In my working life, age and gender are not barriers –  70 year olds direct and write and act and are on the tech side and think nothing of it.  Women are producers, execs, heads of drama….   Tell the average 70 year old female producer  that she should fill her life with baking or patchwork and see how many of your teeth she knocks out.

If we have the narrow mentality that the old are too old to be of use, it has a self-fulfilling effect. It persuades the solitary person, the person who has no one beside them to affirm their worth and value,  that they really are as useless as church and society imply. And then their world shrinks, because we shrink it for them.  And if all you have is one social outing a week, a coffee morning say, then that becomes sort of sacred – to be defended at all costs. And then we say ‘They’re so defensive, so loathe to change!’ and it’s a circular problem. But maybe if we were offering more  things to do, more teams to support, more work to turn to, more stuff to achieve…. maybe then our loneliness would be lessened and we would have a healthier society, a livelier and more challenging church.

Harness the horsepower of the church. Harness us. Treat us like adults, give us problems, deadlines, stuff to DO!

I don’t kid myself that I’m the only one struggling with this  – think of all the creativity, the experience, the energy and willingness that we’re missing out on, every time we discount a single (in both senses) person of any age!

Should we be defeated by this small town, small church, mentality? No way.  It’s not why God made us. It’s not glorifying Him. It’s negative and a draining waste of energy and talent. The church is full of lonely people. Give them a job!

A few months ago I received a fabulous email. It was from a church leader and said simply “I need you to….” and there followed a small and basic task that was achieved in a few minutes. But it was magical to read “I need you to….” I must have read that email a dozen times that day, crowing that someone needed me.

Share the work. Please, share the work.




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