How is it possible to live in the midst of millions and still feel alone? Think of the walls between our homes, the single occupant cars inching along on our slow-moving parking lots known as LA freeways, and our dependence on digital Facebook “friends” and smart phone texting instead of actually getting together and talking. With hundreds of channels to choose from, the easiest way to host a “party” without having to feed anyone is to leave on your television. A different group of “friends” is just one station change away.
The American dream has never been meant to be lived alone. Self reliance is in many ways an illusion; we need community to achieve our personal and career goals. You can’t have a successful career or company without adding value by serving real people.
There’s an immutable truth: Making things happen still requires the ability to have people respect you, listen to you, and want to connect to you. And I mean connect personally, not digitally. The human connection will always outrank the digital connection as a life-enhancing skill.
America at its best is not about succeeding at the expense of others; a free-enterprise republic works best when a strong economy raises all boats willing to leave the debilitating harbor of government dependence. One need not take from others to become successful. The more people who succeed, the more customers available to serve. Let another’s success inspire you and show you how to do the same.
Unfortunately, more Americans are living alone. Brigham Young University researchers followed 3 million people and found that those who said they were lonely, felt socially isolated or lived alone had a 30 percent increased likelihood of death. The study found that loneliness and isolation are as damaging as obesity, smoking 15 cigarettes a day, or excessive drinking.
Where do you find community? There are professional societies, charities, and groups promoting every manner of hobby and personal interest. But one ever-present source of connection remains our faith communities—our churches, synagogues and mosques.
I was recently blessed by attending the Channel Islands Emmaus Walk retreat in Ventura, CA. Just as two Biblical disciples encountered a risen Jesus on a walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, as pilgrims on our own journey, we were challenged deepen our faith. As with all Christians, we claim to be works in progress, so we trusted that the Holy Spirit would work from the inside out to complete the next stage of God’s transforming plan for our lives.
There were numerous powerful moments that touched us on our Emmaus Walk journey which are better left experienced than explained. But rest assured that our faith was enriched and stronger by attending.
Beyond the faith experience, we were amazed by the men that worked to bring the Emmaus Walk to life. Well over 50 men gave up their weekend and more to provide a faith encounter for eight pilgrims. They shared testimonies, cooked meals, prayed for all involved, led music, facilitated discussions, arranged magical experiences of faith, and they loved every minute of it.
For most of those men, the Emmaus Walk had changed their lives. Serving other men by letting them experience the same walk just made their own faith deeper. They knew they were not alone. This tight-knit family of God had become a strong band of brothers, and they were there for each other all year long.
That kind of connection doesn’t come from digital relationships or by watching TV. It takes getting involved. I’m also blessed with a strong family, a caring church at New Hope Lutheran Church, and a fulfilling involvement with Circles Ventura County as we help those committed to breaking free of their chain of poverty.
You want to make America work, find your own supportive “family.” In America, we believe in collaborative problem solving. In school, that’s called cheating. In America, that’s called a caring community. Stay connected; let’s build hope together.