5. One of the Loneliest Nations on Earth
- Chalice or LED/battery-operated candle
Use your established opening ritual or light the chalice and share the following quote:
It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely. --Albert Einstein
A LiveScience article from 2006 analyzes a University of Chicago study that found a correlation between loneliness, high blood pressure, and an early death. Among people 50 years or older, the lonely had blood pressures 30% higher than those who did not describe themselves as lonely. Higher blood pressures can lead to heart disease, the second cause of death in the United States. One in five Americans described themselves as lonely, a "gnawing, emotional state that is a patchwork of feeling unhappy, stressed out, friendless, and hostile... .Lonely people who are middle-aged and older tend to also have problems with alcoholism, depression, weak immune system responses to illness, impaired sleep and suicide."
- The United States ranks in the top quarter of lonely nations. Yet we are the richest, most powerful nation on earth. Why do you think we are so lonely? Why is our loneliness increasing?
- Once upon a time, the telephone was a unique way for people to stay connected. Modern technology has given us many new ways to stay connected such as email, MySpace, Twitter, FaceBook, and texting. Do you think people's use of these is a reaction to American loneliness? Do you think technology helps alleviate loneliness?
- How does technology affect our ability to be connected? What happens to communications and connections when technology is not available or accessible? How does technology help or hinder connections?
- What can each of us do to address loneliness—our own and the loneliness of others, with and without technology?
- When do you feel least lonely?
- To what or whom do you feel connected?
- If you were feeling overwhelmingly lonely, to whom or where would you turn?
Find ways to connect to the elders in your congregation. Perhaps the group might start an annual tradition of hosting a dinner for the congregation's elders. Another idea is a joint worship service, perhaps held on your congregation's anniversary, where both groups, the elder and the younger, can speak to the congregation's history and future. Youth can form a care team that visits shut-in congregational members. If the congregation does not have a van, participants could begin a project to acquire one and plan a fundraiser. The van could be used to transport both youth and elderly members for services and other events. Discuss and make plans, assigning duties and setting dates for follow-up.
Use your established closing ritual.