By Walter Scott
Do you find yourself pulling away from others, especially if you’ve experienced a crisis or deep disappointment? Maybe the most difficult thing we can do is to be with people when we don’t feel like being around anybody. We need other people and we’ll never thrive as human beings in isolation.
One woman likes to say, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry with your girlfriends.” The presumption is that men are not empathetic, and there is probably some truth there.
A man who lost his wife to cancer found himself wanting to be alone. In time he dropped out of his worshiping community and curtailed all of the activities he and his wife had shared for so many years.
He increasingly kept to himself. He quit socializing at work and returned straight home to an empty house. He turned down invitations from friends and co-workers.
His leisure time was now spent watching television or working in his shop in the basement.
His contact with people dwindled until friends became alarmed that he might live out his life as a recluse. One came by to visit and to invite him over for supper the next evening. The two old friends sat in comfortable chairs by a warm fireplace. The visitor extended the dinner invitation and encouraged him to come. “You may need to allow others to share your pain.”
The man responded that he figured he was better off without being around other people. After all, others only seemed to remind him of all he had lost. “And besides,” he said, “it’s just too difficult to get out anymore.”
They sat in silence for a while, watching the wood burn in the fireplace. Then the visitor did an unusual thing. He took tongs from a rack by the fireplace, reached into the fire, pulled out a flaming ember and laid it down by itself on the hearth. “That’s you,” he said.
The men sat in silence watching the red-hot ember. It slowly lost its glow. Neither man looked away as the once-hot coal gradually transformed into a crusty, black lump. After some moments, the widower turned to his companion and said, “I get the message, my friend. I’ll be over tomorrow evening.”
That story could have been about me when my wife died. I really wanted to leave the world I was in and go somewhere and start over – or not. For about three months I did hide away. I got in my car and drove to New Mexico to see my wife’s last surviving brother and his wife. After a day or two, I left again – this time to stop in Midland, Texas to thank a lady I had met once for her getting me help in my wife’s final days. While there I sat in with a group of men and women who had lost their spouse. I learned that even though the loss was the same, we all react to it differently. I eventually found my way back home and with the help of my pastor, worked myself back into church life as well as my own social life. Sometime later, I met a lady who ultimately became my wife. Now, 12 years later, we are still happy and enjoying each other.
We cannot survive in any healthy way by ourselves. The leaf needs the branch. The branch needs the trunk. The trunk needs the roots. And the roots need the rest of the tree. We are connected. And in that connection we find life and vitality.