On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States finds itself in the midst of yet another epidemic—an epidemic of loneliness. While it might seem odd to declare loneliness an epidemic, it is no less true. Between the isolating restrictions in place during COVID-19, the large numbers of people who uprooted and moved to a new state during the past few years, and a drastic rise in a preference for social media over in-person interactions, we shouldn’t be surprised.
This year, the U.S. Surgeon General published a document addressing this epidemic. In it, he outlines the physical and mental health implications for individuals experiencing pervasive loneliness, including:
In contrast, he adds that communities with strong social connections:
The data has shown that this widespread problem brings with it potentially disastrous consequences. So, what can we do about it?
Christmas is a unique time of year. People are more inclined to be friendly and spread Christmas spirit. At the same time, though, the increased focus on spending time with friends and family can exacerbate the loneliness experienced by some. This means that it is a perfect time to reach out to others, because the need is collectively higher, and there are plenty of easy opportunities. Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
This might sound totally cliché, but it’s an easy way to show love to the people around you. This is a great first step for people you don’t know as well, because you can reach out and spread Christmas cheer to someone without the pressure to have an extended conversation.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can organize an ornament or cookie exchange, or even invite someone to join you for Christmas dinner. Just remember that it’s the reaching out with the invitation that matters, not how perfect the event is.
Christmas is a busy season for everyone, including nonprofits and local ministries. Reach out to one in your area and see if they need any extra help! You might end up making new friends and experiencing a life-changing event.
There are so many people who are confined to healthcare facilities or who are isolated during the Christmas season. Think about getting a group together and bringing Christmas to them! As Buddy said in the movie Elf,“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”
Just a quick note or text can make someone’s day. If there’s someone in your life who you don’t see regularly, think about how you could reach out to them this Christmas. Carve out a small block of time to handwrite a few notes, to send some encouraging texts, or to make a few extra phone calls. You never know what kind of impact those few minutes can make in the life of a friend or loved one.
In our fallen world, we are surrounded by people experiencing hardships and suffering. As you notice them, think about how you could help lighten their load. Maybe you could babysit so the parents next door can go Christmas shopping, make a meal for someone who just had surgery, or buy a small gift for the family whose dad just lost his job.
Christmas is a busy season, and reaching out to people might feel a bit inconvenient or uncomfortable. However, Jesus loved us so much that He humbled Himself and came to earth to die on the cross for the sins of the whole world—to save sinners who believe in Him as their Savior. (Phil. 2:8, 1 John 2:2, John 3:16) In John 13:34, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
Because Jesus went to such great lengths to show His love for us, we should be compelled to follow His example and seek to share His love with those around us this Christmas.