The poet Rupert Brooke set out to travel by boat from England to America. All the people on deck had someone there to see them off—except him. Brooke felt very alone. Watching the hugging and kissing and good-byes, he wished he had someone to miss him.
The poet saw a youngster nearby and asked him his name. “William,” he replied.
“William,” he asked, “would you like to earn a few shillings?”
“Sure I would! What do I have to do?”
“Just wave to me as I leave, “ the lonely man said.
Rupert Brooke wrote later, “Some people smiled and some cried, some waved white handkerchiefs and some waved straw hats. And I? I had William, who waved at me with his red bandana for six shillings and kept me from feeling completely alone.”
Loneliness is a pervasive problem in our culture. One in five Americans suffer from persistent loneliness according to The Huffington Post. From the very beginning, loneliness was a problem. Adam was alone and God gave him someone to spend his life with (Genesis 2:8, 18). I learned from a film on listening that for one tribe in Africa, capitol punishment is to withhold human contact from that person.
A ministry we can all be a part of is to help people cope with loneliness. Pay attention to the people who live alone. Make it a point to call or ask him or her to have coffee with you. Or invite yourself over and bring a pastry. If you know someone in a convalescent home, pay him or her a visit. I heard of one individual who made it a point to occasionally visit a nursing home and ask at the main desk which residents never had visitors. Then he would get the names and room numbers and stop by for a short visit.
I try to smile and speak to people I meet on the street. Sometimes I will nod and wave at another car approaching a four-way stop. I strike up conversations with servers in restaurants, checkers at the grocery store, cab drivers, and cashiers at service stations. You never know when all a person needs is a kind word, a smile, or a wave.
Even Jesus felt loneliness. Alone in the garden, Jesus wanted his three closest friends to go with him in his darkest hours before his crucifixion (Luke 22:39-46).
You may not feel comfortable initiating a conversation with a stranger, or know what to say when you visit someone you don’t know very well. But in some form or another, you can always wave.