Everyone who lives in The Town whether newly arrived or long-timers recognizes this is a special place. What I hear said rather often describes appreciation for living in a small neighborhood in the middle of a big city. Seems the essential element of appreciation is less about size and more about the way it is possible around here for folks to get to know one another.
Every week new residents join this Parish, expressing their appreciation for being welcomed into the community. On the other hand, when families are leaving Charlestown they always express their sadness about leaving behind a wonderful community. Inevitably, they speak about returning as often as they can and maybe, someday, moving back here.
We are social beings and we long to be connected, known and to belong. In these times in which we live, fewer and fewer people have such positive connectedness to communities and others. The consequences of this truth are discussed in recent literature and research which point out there is an Epidemic of Loneliness in America.
Last November, in an opinion piece in the New York Times, Arthur Brooks wrote about how loneliness is tearing us apart. He was quoting, extensively, serious research of 20,000 Americans that uncovered startlingly high levels of loneliness across all demographics, most notably among 18-37 year olds. The reasons posited for this current state of affairs are many and beyond the scope of this article.
From my own experience in Charlestown and beyond, I believe this data is accurate and maybe even understates the seriousness of the issue. And, I write about pervasive loneliness in our community and beyond because its existence points to failures in our lifestyles and specifically in our faith-life.
We have become so absorbed in ourselves, our own siloes of work and beliefs that everyone else is a “them”. Our addiction to work, social media, devices and assorted “stuff”, appears to be satisfying while at the same time, it is never enough.
Increasingly, we are living exactly the way God intended us NOT to live. For, God knows us and in fact, created us and “wired” us to be connected, to belong, to be known and to be a part of the lives and community of others. I believe we are never complete until and unless we are.
We are blessed to live in Charlestown for among other things, there are so many more opportunities for us to be connected in various ways. At the same time, I know the level of loneliness here is prevalent and each one of us can do something about that.
We can look up into the faces of the many we meet all around town; shopping, walking, on the 92/93 bus. In public, using our devices and ear buds sends a clear message – leave me alone. Once in a while, turn it off and look around. There may well be an angel near waiting to say hello.