In 2009, a study was published proving that cows that are called by name produce around 500 more pints of milk per year than nameless cows. (For my “Bovine Trivia” loving readers, a cow will typically produce around 13,000 pints of milk annually.) Over 500 dairy farms across the United Kingdom participated in the study, which proved that the cows that produced more milk were not only called by name, but also treated with more one-on-one interaction with humans than cows that were merely herded as a group.
I remembered this study a few weeks ago when I read about Tracey Crouch. This may not be a name that many Americans recognize. However, in January of this year she was appointed to a rather important position in Britain when she was named Minister for Loneliness by Prime Minister Theresa May. England has recognized loneliness as a crisis in their nation. Ms. Crouch’s appointment is a step toward addressing this crisis.
England is not the only nation that has noticed an increase in the number of lonely individuals. Last year, the former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, in a Harvard Business Review article, stated that loneliness is a growing health epidemic in our country with some researchers believing that as many as 60 million Americans experience chronic loneliness.
Those are the statistics- the cold, hard facts. But let’s not overlook the people behind those statistics. I’ve been there with the loneliness. In fact, I’m often there. And it’s not easy. The older I get, the more I think about living out the balance of my years…months…days…alone. And it makes me very sad to think like that. So how do I turn these lonely days around?
Honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just wallow in it, using my loneliness as an excuse to binge on processed “comfort” foods and awful television. I have gone weeks in wallowing. But there is always something or someone that pulls me back out of that awfulness.
A dear friend of mine, Lisa Mills, (lisamillsspeaks.com) described perfectly what that “something” usually is when she wrote: Loneliness is NOT the absence of people – it’s the absence of purpose! Loneliness is an emotional response to feeling isolated. Purpose keeps you CONNECTED! Connected to what? To something more than just you!
Yes! I have a purpose, and that purpose sometimes gets lost in those feelings of isolation. Because much of what I do is in isolation- writing, preparing lessons or talks, ministering, etc., sometimes it is easy to let my aloneness skew my perspective. I forget that there is something more than me.
There are so many times I feel forgotten, many times I feel so much more alone than I really am. It’s not only sad, but it can sometimes be scary. Those are the times I’m so thankful for friends who call me by name, who give me a sense of meaning and affirmation, who re-connect me with my calling and with my “herd.”
Yes, sometimes, it takes more than just remembering my purpose or refocusing my mind on my goals and passions. Sometimes it takes a friend to remind me, to encourage me.
Y’all, we shouldn’t have to appoint a government official to be that person in each other’s lives. We should hang close to one another, encourage, affirm, and yes, sometimes redirect. Just like those British dairy farmers, we can bring out the best in each member of our “herd,” we can keep each other connected.
Let’s make a commitment to be present with each other, giving the support and companionship that we all need.