Monday, September 30, 2019

Loneliness, Listening, and the Gift of Presence

I recently offered these reflections as part of a discussion on the causes and impacts of loneliness in the United States. They are lightly edited. 
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In preparation for our discussion today, I began catching up on current research on loneliness. The largest recent study I could find was published in May 2018 by Cigna. They surveyed more than 20,000 adults in the USA and found that 46% of Americans reported to feeling lonely, and 27% “rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.” They also found that: 

  • “Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent). 
  • “One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent). 
  • “Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.” (https://www.cigna.com/newsroom/news-releases/2018/new-cigna-study-reveals-loneliness-at-epidemic-levels-in-america
These are high numbers – high enough that it is statistically likely that a significant amount of us gathered here today can find ourselves in these figures. We all have our own reasons, struggles, stories, anxieties, and fears. And more than a few of us feel isolated, cut off. We may have even tried to reach out, only to feel more misunderstood and alone. 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

World Day of Migrants and Refugees

I gave the following reflection at Community Christian Church on September 29, 2019, in honor of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It is lightly edited. 
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The World Day of Migrants and Refugees has been an annual remembrance in the Roman Catholic Church since 1914. Tragically, the exploitation of migrants and refugees has continued through these years, as our shared and ongoing reflections on the unfolding immigration and refugee crisis on the southwest border of the USA demonstrate. But it is also important to remember that this is a global tragedy. Today, there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people worldwide; 25.9 million of those are refugees and 3.5 million are asylum seekers. 57% of those refugees come from three nations: Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. Nearly “1 person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution”. (https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html