Do you ever feel lonely when you’re in a room filled with people? Do you ever look around and everyone seems to be talking to someone and laughing and having a good time except you? I have.
I can vividly remember one such day. It was 10 years ago. My oldest (and at the time, only) son was almost 2. The year before I had joined a women’s Bible study at a local church. The study ran Thursday mornings September through May and about 200 women came out to it. We’d meet in the lobby area first and have bagels and coffee and chat. Then we would move into the auditorium for a whole group time usually during which we’d watch a Beth Moore video. After that, we’d spread out throughout the church and break into small groups of about 12 women. We’d stay in the same group for the entire year. I felt like I got to know several women, and I was excited to go back the second year. Which brings us up to the day I’m talking about.
It was the first day of the second year. I wasn’t “new” so no one was making sure to help me get connected. I arrived and checked in and then was on my own during the socializing time. I got my coffee and looked around. Not seeing anyone that I knew yet, I headed to the bagel table and lathered cream cheese onto a bagel and started eating. I looked around again and all I saw was a room full of smiling women laughing and talking and having a good time. Some of the women I knew, but I didn’t feel comfortable going up to them while they were chatting in groups of women. No one seemed to notice me. No one came over to talk to me. I felt invisible and lonely and didn’t know where to stand or what to do. And so I did what I do in those uncomfortable situations… I went back for more food.
And then as I was eating my second bagel, the self-loathing started kicking in. “Of course no one wants to talk to you… you’re fat and all you do is eat… if only you were skinny like the other women, they’d want to talk to you… why did you even bother to come… you should have stayed in bed…”
But thankfully, I caught myself. And I prayed, “God, in this huge room, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels lonely. Please put my eyes on the lonely women instead of the women who seem to be having a great time.” And so I looked around the room again. And standing next to the bagel table was a women all by herself. Like me, her eyes were surveying the room. Like me, she looked a little awkward. So I took a deep breath, and instead of waiting for someone to come to me, I went to her. “Hi, I’m Becki. I don’t think we met yet.”
And we had a great conversation. It was her second year too. I never asked if she felt lonely like I did, but her face lit up as we started talking. Turns out she was a math tutor with too many students, and I was looking to get started in tutoring. So through that time of stepping out and looking beyond myself, I made a new friend, felt like I belonged instead of feeling awkward, and I landed two students for tutoring at $50 an hour, so an extra $100 a week. Score!
Now 10 years later, I think about that time a lot. I’ve learned that I need to do more friend initiating instead of friend waiting. I’ve learned that I need to invite women to lunch. (Yesterday I had lunch with this amazing woman. Noticing on Facebook that her birthday was this week, I sent her a message asking if we could get together.) I’ve learned that I need to pick up the phone and call women. (Women-not men! My husband can initiate our men friendships… but that’s another post for another day…) I’ve learned that I need to send a text or email or post on a friend’s Facebook page. The thing is, that none of that comes naturally to me. I really am an introvert… it’s easy for me to sit in the privacy of my own home and type on my computer and put it out on the Internet for whoever wants to read it. But real life interactions – that’s work!
But, oh how worth it, are those real life interactions. In the Bible in the book of Hebrews, Paul says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some people do, but let us encourage one another.” (10:25) I’m pretty sure Paul was talking about meeting together to pray and worship God. But I also take it to mean socially. We really were meant to journey through life together, not alone, hidden behind a computer screen. So if you feel lonely in this crowded world, know that you are not the only one. But if you want that to change, stop waiting for someone to come to you. Look around, and take the step yourself and reach out to others. As you light up their day, your own will grow brighter too!
You can always start with me… I love phone calls, and texts, and messages on my blog and Facebook page, and invitations to lunch or coffee or a movie or whatever! 😉
Joining you on the journey…