A lotta loneliness out there nowadays, Times health columnist Jane Brody wrote recently. Too much for one column and if loneliness is as lethal as smoking, Dr. Samuel Johnson’s great truth needs a mighty revival. “We need as much to be reminded as informed,” he declared. The many causes that potentially go into this latter-day plague must be considered.
Too little considered, however, is how people may drink to ward off loneliness; over-drinking worries me more than smoking because it affects behavior — often adversely. Long overdue is the recent crackdown on booze at those office holiday parties. But alcohol does enable the shy and the “less vocally verbal” to speak up — participate. A kind of a Catch-22 about which infinitely more must be said.
And consider how all these “merry” and “happy” holiday wishes — or maybe they’re the birthday kind — under certain conditions really don’t help and may in fact may hurt. Those wishes might well be questions instead like: “How are you doing, really doing?
That’s what Madison Avenue Presbyterian’s Rev. Beverly Bartlett says when visiting an ill or home-bound member. Her recent birthday card said. “Wishing you joy and strength for the year ahead.” She always reminds how the church is “there for you.” Indeed a lot of people say, “Let me know if you need help.”
But my research finds old people especially are reluctant to ask for help — “don’t want to be a bother.” And likely that’s why some research claims young people are the loneliest group although usually the least isolated.
But to stay with the clergy and because the former pastor of Zion-St. Mark’s Church, Manfred Bahmann, recently departed this life, we remember how a Christmas morning brunch was held at that church, because Manfred said, “We don’t want anyone to be alone at Christmas. And afterwards, he, his wife, Marianne, and six or so others spent considerable time with homebound members. They sang carols together led by Marianne who also encouraged the homebound members to tell how they were — really were. She was better at that than Manfred who sometimes took over the talk. And, you know what? He welcomed being reminded of that “shortcoming.” If ever there was a “love one another” lesson, Yorkville became a lot lonelier when the Bahmanns moved away. Their lessons need a great revival.
And loneliness surely occurs when others don’t want to know the hard truths of our lives — and when the talk isn’t adequately shared.
My “Share the Talk” movement never did get off the ground although most loneliness experts advocate a similar endeavor. It just isn’t adequately stressed, or that some of the talk be the “overcoming loneliness” kind.
But some experts say, “If you’re lonely you must reach out.” Ah, but if there’s no response ... and often the fast-growing 85-plus group can’t travel alone to socialize, as these gurus suggest they do. Gurus like me say the real need is to make old voices heard at civic and other “change the system” places — speak against ageism and age segregation - undeniable loneliness factors.
Ah, and so is losing our everyday public places — small businesses, eateries and other public gathering places. And how this needs a’ stressin’ in the still-too-minor and long-overdue “save the small business” movement. Stress how it’s a mental and physical health issue of the most important kind.
Again, in the spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, experience the wondrously-lit Park Avenue Memorial Trees after sundown — and may you able-bodied take those who are not. Above all, remember those trees are there to honor all this nation’s war dead which so tragically continues. Remember how this magnificent tradition was begun in 1945 by several grieving Park Avenue mothers to honor their sons and daughters lost in World War II.
And, oh, remember we must — to help those veterans in 2017 who so deserve care and caring.