Is everything fine? Really? How often do you talk to people? Would you like me to invite you over, just to hang out with? Would you like to come sit with us today?
Maybe you’ve been asked one of those questions; maybe you haven’t. Maybe you wish people would ask those questions more often, maybe you hope they never do. Maybe you’ve thought about asking those questions about other people.
Because some people are lonely, and they don’t know what to do about it.
“We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness,” says Gail Honeyman, famous author of the novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
It may seem too good to be true. Of course, random acts of kindness alone are not going to end loneliness in the world, nor do they have to be random. But they certainly are strong tools. Kind deeds not only help a person with a problem, but the act itself shows a person that you see them, you recognize that they may be struggling and that you think of them fondly enough to help them.
Loneliness isn’t just a you problem or a me problem. It’s an everyone problem. The irony is that people struggle with loneliness alone, but if they only knew how many other people struggled with the same problem, they could more easily be there for one another.
The monster of loneliness only wins so long as people believe the problem of being lonely is one they alone struggle with. If we only knew that loneliness has bothered human beings for as long as we’ve looked around and thought about ourselves in relation to others and recognized how we are not like everyone else. Loneliness is the fear and anxiety of not being in harmony with other people enough to trust that they are with you, even when they’re not.
Help someone, and you may discover that you need help too. And there they are, the helped becoming the helper also.
How do you begin?
How do you even make friends at work? You can try to socialize, but who are these people outside the workplace? What if nobody agrees with you? And what if you simply do not have time, or have to work in such a way that you never feel comfortable enough to show the real you? What is the real you? The question is as much about finding friends in other people as it is about finding the real you.
Getting to know other people is awkward. And you know why. Deep down, it’s not them you’re afraid of. It’s also you. Them getting to know you. Them judging you.
You feel alone because you don’t know how kind people are. Ask yourself, “how kind am I?” If you don’t know, find out. Begin with an act of kindness toward another person. Pay attention to how they receive the kindness, believe in it, and acknowledge it in yourself as well. They now have something in common with you.
An act of kindness never just helps one person. I believe it helps the whole of society. A single act has repercussions that bring humans together. It restores hope in friendship, kindness, and trust.
If you notice someone who seems lonely, act; if you feel lonely yourself, don’t wait for others to act. Begin not just by looking for friendship, but by looking for ways to express kindness, gratitude, and solidarity. You may never know what other people were just waiting for you to say something, do something, be something.
Be that person today. You could end saving someone’s life by rescuing them from loneliness. But it would even be worth it just to make someone’s day a little bit better so they can make it to the next.
If you’ve been there, then you know.
Acts of kindness help other people, but can even help yourself. By reaching out, you connect, and it always takes two to connect. The beauty of positive human connections is there are always two or more people being helped.
Kindness helps fight loneliness and makes the world feel a little less lonely.