The Ink Penn

Within days of one other, two articles expressing the same sentiment caught my attention. Their point stayed with me and continued to surface throughout the holiday season. The message I took away was twofold: Loneliness is on the rise in our society, and we shouldn’t lose touch with our friends.

The first article was a WSJ review of Ben Sasse’s book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other—and How to Heal.”

I steer clear of books about politics, but the review painted Sasse’s book as more about how our family and friend connections have deteriorated rather than about our differences.

Sasse notes, “In the mid-2000s, one-quarter of Amercian said they had no one with whom to talk about things that matter. That was triple the percentage from the 1980s.”

How many people do we know who would count themselves in that contingent? Never mind the reasons posted as to why this may be the case. Consider instead that the reviewer dubbed this situation a “loneliness epidemic.”

Next was The Crier’s Lewis J. Walker’s column “Social interaction, love, intimacy, and retirement.” Walker is a financial planner and speaks from the perspective of planning for retirement. His point? So many of us worry about running out of money when perhaps “Running out of friends, loved ones, and people you enjoy and who enjoy you may be a bigger threat.”

Both authors spoke of the many Americans who have been diagnosed with depression or say they are depressed. Sasse wonders whether people are truly depressed or simply lonely while Walker notes that sadness can stem from loneliness. Regardless of the causes, they both agree loneliness is an issue and that friends and loved ones with whom to interact are critical to a healthy life, be it in retirement or earlier in life.

I’ve always counted myself fortunate to have two sets of long-time friends with whom I can share pretty much anything. The first was formed when I taught school early in my career. I only taught for four years, but the close friendships I formed still exist. We five occasionally go weeks or even months without talking to each other, but when we do catch up, nothing has changed. Texts and emails help us to keep up with each other, especially in a city like Atlanta, where getting together is a bear.

The second group grew out of the years when I facilitated leadership training. We gals traveled together, often in pairs, to conduct four-day classes in B&Bs and hotels across the country. When we weren’t providing the training, we were being trained or sitting in meetings together. We just clicked. Through all life’s changes and ups and downs, we’ve managed to stay connected and occasionally meet up for a long weekend.

I know I could pick up the phone and call any one of these friends out of the blue, and they’d be there for me. Whether it was a request to talk something over by phone or to take the next plane to see me, they’d be there.

I wholeheartedly agree that friends are essential to health and happiness, and I’d be heartbroken to lose touch with any of mine. As John Leonard said so well, “It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” My New Year’s resolution, then, is to work even harder to stay connected with my friends, old and new.

Here’s to a happy, healthy New Year for us all.

Kathy is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books, “Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch” and “The Ink Penn: Celebrating the Magic in the Everyday,” at the Enchanted Forest, Amy’s Hallmark at the Forum and Mansell Crossing, and on Amazon. Contact her at inkpenn119@gmail.com, and follow her on Facebook, www.facebook.com/KathyManosPennAuthor/.

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