Friday, November 14, 2014

# 53: Staying LDS Keeps You Social

A while back I visited an uncle who lives alone in a retirement community.  It’s an upscale trailer park in southern California.  There’s a community center in that neighborhood where the senior citizens go to play games and socialize.  Sometimes they have non-denominational church services there.  

My uncle spends quite a bit of time in that community center, and he has gotten to know his neighbors.  But he said something that made me sad.  He said that about a third of the residents were shut-ins.  They rarely came out of their houses, and when they did, they didn’t initiate conversations with anybody.  They just stayed inside and uh… I don’t know what they did.  Maybe they watched TV or read books.  

Why does that happen?  What is it that makes all these people want to be alone all the time? 

I also remember talking to a Resident Assistant of a dormitory I lived in, while I was in college.  He said that for many people, the college years were lonely years.  Some people just aren’t good at making and keeping friends.  It’s sad to think about all the lonely college students out there, suffering in isolation, in their dorm rooms.  

I also felt this heart-wrenching loneliness, when I was away at college, from time to time.  Weekends were the hardest, weekends when I had nothing to do, and no one to hang out with.  I still naturally gravitate towards isolation, so I’m glad I have my family around, and I’m glad I have all the great people in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to shake hands with on Sunday.  I’m glad I have families to home teach.  It’s just nice to have friendly human contact.

I heard about this experiment some Communists did with some babies.  The Communists wanted to see what language kids would end up speaking if they never heard adults speaking a language.  So, they took a bunch of babies and put them in a room.  They gave them food, and water, and blankets, and all the necessities for life.  But they never talked with the babies, or held them, or anything like that.

And do you know what happened?  All the babies died.  

It turns out that babies will not live by bread alone.  They also need love, care and attention.

We’re not much different from these babies.  We need family, and we need friends, and we need community.  We’re not emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually healthy when we’re isolated for long periods of time.  That’s a general rule, anyway. 

The words in Genesis ring true: “It is not good for man to be alone.”

I have these neighbors whose kids bother me.  The kids leave litter in the street, and they cut off a few paddles from my cactus with a pair of scissors, and they generally cause problems, but you know what?  At least they talk to me.  At least they play outside and are social.  I would rather have annoying neighbors who go out of their way to talk to me than neighbors who don’t want to talk to me, or get to know me, or even make eye contact with me.

If you stay in the Church, you’ll have ample opportunities to socialize, and make friends, and be around people.  There is church on Sunday, and seminary, and Institute, and church parties and activities, and family home evening groups, and home teaching and visiting teaching.  What’s something that all these things have in common?  They all require people to have face-to-face interactions with each other.  And that’s a good thing.  

You'll also meet a lot of interesting people, if you stay in the Church.  There are a lot of neat people in your ward.  Get to know them.  You'll learn a lot about the world just by chatting with people, finding out what they do for a living, where they've lived, what kind of books and movies they like, what their hobbies are, and so on.

Of course, there are a lot of interesting people outside of the Church.  Some of the people I see around town look very interesting.  But it's a lot easier for me to talk with people at Church than to just randomly strike up a conversation with someone in a restaurant or something.

The interactions you have with people at Church may not be ideal, but, it’s better to have less than ideal interactions with people than it is to have no interactions at all.

You may feel that your friends at church are mere acquaintances, and the relationships you have with them are shallow.  If you do feel that way, keep in mind that it’s better to have a shallow relationship with another human than it is to have no relationship at all.  And if you want a deeper, more meaningful relationship with someone, you have to work at it.  That’s true in the Church, and out of the Church.  If you try, you can make a true, good friend with someone you find at Church, even if you don’t believe in the foundational claims of the Church.

Hang in there buddy, and good luck.

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