Friday, 5 September 2014

Rent A Friend

It wasn't until recently that I heard about a paid service available for 'lonely folk', allowing them to 'Rent A Friend' to guide them in a foreign town, to watch a movie, to have dinner with...seriously, except the first reason, all others just saddened me.

Did you know that 800000 people in England experience loneliness? Majority falling prey to depression, which is the most common mental health disorder in the UK?
Did you know that it is mainly the over 50s, divorcees and widows who feel lonely? Women being more vulnerable than men?
Did you know that the number of people falling into this category is steeply increasing? That it is no longer a problem associated with a particular age-group or gender?
I didn't!

Loneliness is a neglected problem in our society - scientifically, socially and spiritually.
  • 'Campaign to End Loneliness' equates the detriment in a lonely person's health to that of someone who smokes 15 cigarettes a day! Loneliness often leads to depression which, as we are reminded time and again by various celebrities, can lead to death - both suicidal and natural.
  • We are social beings. Sadly we are made socially deficient by virtual reality. *GENERALISATION ALERT* People speak of times when neighbours sat in their gardens or front yards and spoke to each we even know our neighbours, let alone anything about them? Even in my lifetime I enjoyed staying out till late to play badminton and tag with the kids in my neighbourhood...where have the kids gone? We're developing a future full of couch potatoes! Where isolation is conceived, loneliness is birthed. According to Darwin's theory of Natural Selection and evolutionary history, the human race was so successful because they were social and the development of languages allowed greater levels of interaction. By preventing ourselves and others from intimacy, aren't we devolving? This problem therefore weakens the infrastructure of our society, to our peril.
  • I remember reading about the discovery of an elderly female Homo erectus skeleton - she is belived to have died of hypervitaminosis A. They say that the only reason she survived long enough was because she was cared for by those in that ancient civilization - I hope we in the West have not grown out of it! In the East I know for a fact that families actively care for their elderly, but I seldom see it here.
  • Loneliness makes us spiritually vulnerable to sin. Loneliness often results in idleness, and we all know that 'an idle man's brain is the devil's workshop'. We escape accountability, hence it is so easy to slip into and be bound by secret sins like pornography - not only to keep you occupied but to give you the false sense of security and fulfilment as you crave some sort of intimacy. Loneliness is the path that leads to the bog of sinfulness.
While some are oblivious to this, others hesitate to care. Talk about monetary or one-off measures for the 'greater good' and you will have people flooding your door, but loneliness is one that very few want to tackle as it demands something of far greater worth - time - the thing we never seem to have enough of!
Why care? Jesus cared and still cares!
We, as Christians, are called to love like Jesus and care for the hurting - yes that means investing time and even money but think of all the time we literally waste! As I type away, I am reminded of how much I fall short of this calling! There are many who say that the world is falling apart; as salt and light however, we are to show people how to super-glue it back together.
There is a lot we can do. If you don't know where to start...
  • Start with a smile or a simple 'Good morning!', especially to the elderly
  • Get volunteering or campaigning for the government to better address this issue - you can check out 'Campaign to End Loneliness' for more information.
Like tiny drops of water joining to make a mighty ocean, let us challenge each other to make a conscious effort in our little corner of the world to be a friend to the lonely!

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