Home Alone

It was a hilarious film in 1990 as Macauley Culken plays an eight-year-old kid who is home alone and whose ingenuity fends off two would-be burglars (bunglers?).

Home alone isn’t always that funny. Yesterday in the check out line at COSTO, the checker had to look up a price for something I was buying. I turned to the woman waiting behind me. “I hate holding up lines in stores,” I said with an apologetic look.

“Doesn’t bother me,” she replied. “It’s nice to talk to somebody. I live alone, you know.”

Well, of course I didn’t know and during our wait, she told me in what part of the city she lived. She was buying a single item (rare at COSTCO), a large package of frozen beef stew. The checker was ready for me and that concluded our chat. I didn’t get her name.
On my way home, I thought about her and of many of us who are home alone. You hear a lot about single older people not living as long as those who are coupled up, and you hear about the greater chance of depression and suicide among loners. Many of us prefer living alone, perhaps flirting naïvely with these hidden dangers to our health and well-being. And of course there is the very real danger of a medical emergency with no one around to help. We live alone anyway, a sort of ‘living on the edge’ I suppose.

There is certainly a difference between ‘aloneness’ and ‘loneliness’ and I would guess that the lady in COSTCO suffers a bit from the latter. While she didn’t take the opportunity with me to rattle on, it was clear that she was happy to engage in any kind of human interaction, however brief it may be. She didn’t seem be to hinting at our having coffee later (or a hotdog, if you’re at COSTCO), and she went on her way with only a slight wave goodbye.

And I went on about my own busy day, arriving home with a couple of things on my schedule. Reading EfM materials for one, continuing to slog through a Vivaldi cello concerto part for another, dealing with a current HOA issue, meeting with the Amazon people who want to install a better delivery system in the building, more reading, and another hour of cello practice. Alone but not lonely—at least not today.

It’s in the evenings that I sometimes feel lonely. Unless I invite people to dinner, I don’t see much of them otherwise. I don’t invite people on a quid pro quo basis but I can’t help wondering where they are when they aren’t here and what they’re doing. It’s rarer each year to be automatically included in dinner plans by fewer and fewer friends and acquaintances. I know this sounds like a lament, and I only bring it up because this lack of being included is possibly one of those ingredients for depression that people living alone suffer from. Fortunately for me, this condition heads its ugly rear only spasmodically, but for many like the lady at COSTCO, its appearance is likely more usual than occasional.

Ah, now for the EfM reading. Community is the key word throughout and the emphasis on Christian maturity is the main theme for this coming year. Directly out of the chute comes a discussion of how to listen to other people, to really listen. All we need now is someone to listen to and for someone to listen to us. But to do either, we have to get together.

I have gained a small reputation as a good cook and this has become something of a curse. People excuse themselves from having me to dinner because they say, “Oh Robert, I couldn’t cook for you!” as if I were Julia Child or something. Ridiculous, but I hope that’s their real reason. I already mentioned COSTCO hotdogs, didn’t I? Well, I’m happy to have one of theirs or one of yours or anything else you’re putting on the table. The point of eating together is the ‘together’ part and not what the kitchen produces. Together = Community.

Maybe there are other reasons and perhaps EfM’s efforts to show me the way toward a greater Christian maturity will render me a more desirable dinner guest. And who knows? Maybe the lady at COSTCO has poisoned the neighborhood wells of hospitality and that’s why she’s eating frozen beef stew alone. All we can do is try harder to see each other in whatever context exists for us, be thoughtful about our need and desire for community, and move with more conviction toward the knowledge of “Who is my neighbor?”

“In peace, we pray to you, Lord God.
For all people in their daily life and work;
For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone.”
                           BCP, Prayers of the People, Form VI

Robert Heylmun
20 September 2019

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