I looked into the face of loneliness today.
A sweet older woman saw that I had fewer items in my grocery cart and insisted that I go ahead of her in line. I insisted that she keep her place but she refused. Then, I really looked into her eyes. She didn’t simply offer a courtesy, I could see she wanted to speak to me. I started a conversation. “Looks like we’re cooking the same thing for dinner, Mexican food.”
“No,” she said. “Chili.” Then she picked out a few other things in her cart to show me. She told me that she was only cooking for one now and which things were perfect for a single serving. Her hair was a cottony snow white and her eyes were bright in her plump face. I wondered how long it had been that a young man had spoken to this lonely widow. When was the last time a man had spoken to this sweet lady except to sack her groceries or mow her yard? When was the last time a man had shown any personal interest in her? I wondered how far away she might be from her children or grandchildren. When was the last time they might have called her? It hurt to think how lonely she might be. What depth of solitude would prompt her to converse with a total stranger in the grocery line. I wasn’t that interested in the vegetable and rice frozen dinner she showed me. I was also amused by the fact that even if she were forty years younger, I’m a gay man and would have little more interest in her than I do towards her at seventy. However, I did my best to look her straight in the eye, gave her one hundred percent of my attention, and smiled as kindly as possible.
I’m a single man but I’m surrounded by people every day. That doesn’t mean that I have not experienced loneliness. I am very often a loner by choice but when I want company, there is no greater ache than unavoidable solitude. I wonder how long it will be before each of us will have outlived our friends. Will the adventurous call of life pull our children, grandchildren and energetic young friends away on their own life’s journeys. Will they travel to places that we cannot follow? Who will remain behind to comfort us with company and friendship? How do we prepare for such a time?
The Hindu believe that we are a reflection of the universe and a reflection of each other. We are one and the same. I don’t agree with the spirituality but I do agree with the symbolism and philosophy. Let’s all try to sympathize with one another more than we presently do. Let’s try harder to see ourselves in the place of another. Let’s be ready to show love with our eyes if a stranger needs it. We all may need it one day.