Maybe it was the resemblance to my own high school years, rushing through congested hallways past a blur of faces. Maybe it was just that lonely-in-a-crowd feeling we all get sometimes. Perhaps that feeling was intensified by knowing we were united in our unspoken longing for our children to thrive in this place—and that most of us would never be more to each other than a familiar face.
It was curriculum night at my daughter’s high school, when parents spend the evening going from class to class, much as our teenagers spend their days. We meet teachers and hear about what our kids will learn. We see some people we know and plenty we don’t.
On this occasion I suddenly felt disconnected from everyone around me, lonely and longing for the warmth and satisfaction of knowing and being known by the community of people around me.
A Universal Problem
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel lonely, and for up to 40 percent of us, it’s a chronic issue. For the rest of us, loneliness may not be constant, but we all feel it from time to time. Some mental health experts even fear that an epidemic of loneliness is developing in our society—and it’s not to be taken lightly. Loneliness, they say, can be as hazardous to our health as smoking, alcoholism, or obesity.
Many experts say the problem is increasing even as we make more and easier connections through social media. We are lonely mothers, wives, and single women—introverts and extroverts. Some of us are lonely people who also happen to have a lot of friends.1