The Human Experience: Loneliness & Community
If we’re lucky, there are periods of our lives that are full of communal joy. Years when we feel so connected to a group of people that we know will always be there for us, will always love us, no matter what.
If we’re human, we will definitely experience at least some moments of loneliness, of disconnection, of feeling like we aren’t part of a bigger whole, and like if we disappeared, perhaps no one would even notice. Everyone feels lonely at some point. Not everyone has the privilege of feeling unconditionally loved and supported.
So many people that we know struggle with depression. And many others have shared how hard it can be to build community, especially after high school and college when it can be more difficult to meet people. Personally, I feel the loneliest on days that I call 5-8 people to try and connect for a brief chat and no one answers.
It can be so easy to feel like you’re in the middle of the desert, all by yourself, with nothing and no one. In those moments when it feels like your world is falling apart and all of the people who said they’d always be there are nowhere to be found. Or when you try to reconnect with an old friend or close family member and realize that you’ve changed too much and no longer fit the way you used to. Loneliness is a profound emotion that has the power to drown us. And yet, “Even when the dark comes crashing through, when you need a friend to carry you, and when you’re broken on the ground, YOU WILL BE FOUND.”
In the musical Dear Evan Hansen, which those lyrics are from, Evan is a high school senior who has severe social anxiety and often feels isolated and alone. This show, which we had the opportunity to see today, is such a strong reminder of all the people who experience these feelings every day. And it’s also a great reminder that the most important thing is to be yourself. Nowadays, especially with social media, it is SO incredibly tempting to constantly compare ourselves. Life has become a popularity contest for so many people, a competition to be the most successful, the best.
But what if we change the current? What if we decide to shift our mindsets and focus on collaboration instead of competition, on person-to-person connection rather than technological connection? What if, as we celebrate who we are and share that person with the world, we each reached out our hand to a stranger, an acquaintance, or a friend to show them that they are loved?
This is what The Strangers Project is attempting to do. The other day as we were walking through Washington Square Park we came across a display of hand-written letters. As we got closer, we saw what the letters were all about. Brandon Doman created the project in an effort to create a platform for strangers to connect:
“The Strangers Project is a celebration of the stories we’re surrounded with every day—both from the strangers we share our space with every day, and our own stories we carry. It’s about a connection with ourselves, with people around us, and with something greater than ourselves. I create spaces where people can discover stories, and if they choose, share their own... The stories come from all ages, all walks of life.”
In 2009, when Brandon started the project, he saw the need for connection; he knew that connecting strangers through stories could change a person’s life. When we feel lonely and disconnected, it is so easy to feel like we are the only one experiencing that emotion. And it’s so hard to know what to do, who to talk to, especially when we feel like maybe no one will care.
We care. We care about you. And so many other people do too. Even people that you don’t know. So if you’re feeling lonely, isolated, disconnected, please reach out. The universe wants you to be you, radiant you! You are loved just as you are.
This is a call to community. How can you grow community in your neighborhood? In your school? In your church? In your yoga studio? In your office? Because chances are there is someone in your social sphere who is feeling alone. Can you be the person who reminds them that they are loved?