The Epidemic of Loneliness at Christmas Time

I found this story on the Preaching Today website. 

A British medical doctor named Ishani Kar-Purkayastha shared a story about his interaction with Doris, an 82-year-old hospital patient. Two days before Christmas, Doris seemed healthy and ready for discharge. But for some reason she kept complaining about inexplicable health issues. Dr. Kar-Purkayastha wrote: “Yesterday it was her arm that was hurting, before that her hip. Truth is, Doris is an incredibly healthy 82-year-old, and we can’t find anything. I have no doubt that it will be the same today.”

When the X-rays came back normal, he told Doris that he would have to stick to the plan of sending her home. Doris looked down at the floor and quietly said, “I don’t want to go home …. It’s just that I’m all alone and there are so many hours in the day.” Then after a long pause, she sighed and asked, “Doctor, can you give me a cure for loneliness?”

Dr. Kar-Purkayastha reflected on this incident:

I wish I could say yes. I wish I could prescribe her some antidepressants and be satisfied that I had done my best, but the truth is she’s not clinically depressed. It’s just that she has been left behind by a world that no longer revolves around her, not even the littlest bit.

There are thousands like her, men and women … for whom time stands empty as they wait in homes full of silence …. They are no longer coveted by a society addicted to youth ….

[Doris] is alone, and it brings home the truth of this epidemic that we have on our hands—an epidemic of loneliness …. The most difficult part is that I don’t know how to solve this, although I wish I could. For now, I simply retract my diagnoses. Sheepishly, I insist that Doris spends her Christmas this year on the ward, and I can see her mood lift. But as I steel myself for the inevitable influx of unwanted grandparents whom I know will arrive, I cannot help but wonder how it is that things could have gone so badly wrong.

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Dr. Ishani Kar-Purkayastha, “An Epidemic of Loneliness,” The Lancelet (12-18-10)

Do you know anyone who is lonely this Christmas? Have you considered how you could brighten their day with a simple phone call, card or visit? As I write that last sentence I realize that I must ask this question of myself as well and that how I answer that question will either honor God or not.

I want to encourage you to choose today how you might address this epidemic this Christmas.  Who will you reach out to this month?

As we celebrate the gift of Jesus this season, may we be looking for ways to give the gift of presence to those who are lonely.


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