Monthly Archives: June 2014

Tips for Combatting Family Loneliness

We’ve seen over the last few weeks how living alone can be difficult.  It is seldom, however, that we think of someone who lives with a family as being alone, yet today people can be very alone although surrounded by many loved ones.  In this type of situation the day-to-day distractions of busy lifestyles can divert the family unit from really maintaining the social interface and connection so needed by humans who are truly meant to live as part of a social unit.

Sadly, this kind of loneliness within a family household is quite common and real.  We ignore it and, over time, the disconnection exacerbates itself and becomes a major family problem.  In this, our last discussion of loneliness, I will try to provide some tips to help preclude this situation so that we might reinstate the joy of family living that is meant to be.

So what do I mean by a family which lives under the same roof being disconnected?  Well, here are just a few examples.  In the past the extended family often made things cohesive, but today with the nuclear family we have lost the sense of interconnectedness of family which the large extended family brought.  Both parents working is another issue, with many children today spending extended periods of time without proper parental guidance and oversight.  Often their family connections become secondary to their friends and associations from school while the parents become more and more absorbed with their work.  This also impacts the closeness of the two parents, driving them apart as well. And finally, the interjection of technology with cell and I-phones, computers and all of their social media components, and even television, constantly pulls us away from spending time with each other.

Perhaps answering a few questions can help us to determine if we have a family issue of this type and, if so, what we can do to undo the damage and strengthen our relationships. I’ve provided some suggestions which might help us get started but each family unit is unique and therefore has its own special needs, so these questions and answers are just a point from which to start.  Let’s give it a try.

Does your family have regular group meals where you share the events that are going on in your lives?  Family meals are an important way to gather together, providing a pleasant place to communicate with one another regularly.  It is easy to get out of the habit with busy and varied schedules, but when a family eats together they share a quality time to spend in fellowship in a relaxed manner.  It’s a good time to discuss school, work, fun things and current events as well.  A family that routinely shares a daily meal will be more likely to truly know one another and be sharing and loving.

Do you allow your life to be driven by the cell phone?  Everyone these days seems to have a cell phone and, in many cases, this includes all members of the family regardless of the age.  It can be quite helpful to have certain periods when the cell phones are turned off, such as the dinner hour and homework period as well as at special family gatherings or events. This is helpful in focusing the family on what is important, such as conversing with one another or focusing on school work.  Too often we find family members cutting others off to answer that important phone call which often really isn’t very important, at least not when it forms a barrier to good family relations as well as general good manners.  Set up a plan and see how it works.

Even when you share time together,  is it often confined to watching television with limited conversation?  Nobody can question that the television can be quite entertaining and a limited amount of viewing, particularly if it is screened for content, is reasonable.  The problem is that it can be habit forming with the result growing to endless hours of watching the medium.  Television is a passive learning tool which means most is forgotten and it can be a detriment to good communications within the family.  To combat this, try watching a special movie and then discussing it during commercials and after the show ends.  And find good family friendly shows to watch that are of benefit to all, not the psychobabble of mindless sitcoms which really aren’t funny at all and are forgotten as soon as they are done.

Do you worship together and share your religious convictions and moral code?  Putting a focus on God or, if you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, another higher authority which teaches good morals and good living.  Reflect on this with the family and reinforce it in your life.  As your children see your example they will want to mimic you.  Regardless of what you think you know about them, they do want to emulate you and be proud of you.  That is a very strong factor working in your favor.

Do you talk with your children about school and review their work?  Take time to review homework with each child and discuss their day.  Try to positively reinforce their experience and work with them jointly to solve issues that are troubling them.  Again, they want your involvement and it pays big dividends as they develop a high degree of respect for you.

What do you know about their friends? Get to know their friends by first name and allow them to visit in your home.  Any problems you have with their friends need to be discussed privately with your children and monitored.  If handled delicately, you might even turn what you think is a problem into a great asset.  This can often happen through the positive influence that your child can offer as well as the positive image that your family creates in that child’s mind.  Perhaps he or she is from a family filled with strife or a broken home and your influence can be quite rewarding.

What do they know about your earlier life and departed family as well as your job and how you spend your day?  Your children want to know what you do and they want to encourage you in your business life. After all, parents are their lifeline and if they feel safe and secure they do better.  But they also need to understand the trials and tribulations they will face in the adult working world as it will help them prepare for their future.  You don’t need to share all of the “gritty” details but share your experiences with them.

Are you and your spouse so wrapped up in the children that you really don’t even know each other anymore?  Last, but certainly not least, it is important for the parents, husband and wife, to nurture their relationship as a couple and not just as a family.  Schedule “date night” periodically or otherwise make sure that you get quality time together away from the kids.  If you have friends in a similar situation, you might consider trade off weekends which will afford you to get a short but private time on a weekend trip without the kids.  It will recharge your batteries, reinforce your love for each other and the kids will probably enjoy the short break themselves.

These are just a few ideas and there are limitless possibilities for more, but the point is to focus on your family situation, identify issues found and develop a plan of attack to turn a negative into a positive.  If you do this, you will find your internal family relationships will be a joy instead of a chore and, as you get older, the empty nest syndrome won’t be nearly as lonely.  A good and vibrant relationship now will build a lasting relationship later which you will look forward to.

I hope this has been helpful and I wish you all luck in this endeavor. Until next time, God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

God Be With America’s 9/11 Force

Writer’s note: For the last several weeks we’ve been talking about loneliness, a problem which is growing in America due to the nuclear family and lack of personal contact caused by a much more technologically advanced society.  Unfortunately, many prefer to use the telephone or email/social media instead of face to face contact and in so doing we lose some of our sociability. I had planned to write a finale to the ongoing discussion today, but have opted to delay for one week to address a subject which has suddenly come to the forefront.  The title of the blog gives you a clue.  I hope you will join me in praying for these wonderful young folks, our United States Marines, who are again thrust into the middle of a dangerous situation with no easy answers.

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Over the last few days we have watched with alarm the rapid disintegration of the social order in Iraq.  And while I don’t want to put blame on anyone in particular, it is certainly clear that our disengagement from Iraq in 2011 was a major mistake.  What is transpiring in that beleaguered country is just what most of our military experts predicted, so now we are faced with a major dilemma:  What do we do now?

With approximately five thousand personnel in the Green Zone, including State Department personnel and approximately one hundred fifty Marines and Army soldiers still in country, plus an undisclosed number of civilian contractors surrounded by terrorists, it is imperative that we take necessary action to protect them and bring those home that are not required for security reasons to remain. The United States Embassy in Baghdad remains operational and most of southern Iraq is still in friendly hands.  Trying to fend off the complete capitulation of a democratic Iraq is necessary to avoid a complete setback in the Middle East which will leave Israel totally isolated.

If Iraq totally falls and the withdrawal of Afghanistan continues unabated, a wide swath of territory from Damascus to Tehran to Kabul will be under the wing of the Mullahs who support terror and Sharia.  The base of operations will be capable of organizing terror operations of a huge scale worldwide, shielded totally from interference by the sheer magnitude of wilderness that they will control.  More 9/11s will be a certainty, not a possibility, and without America’s leadership we’ve seen in recent history the horrors that result.

So far, the only answer from the United States has been a last minute decision by the President to send two hundred and seventy-five Marines to Baghdad to secure the Embassy.  This small but brave contingent of America’s 9/11 force is right now the only unit stopping the complete destruction of the gains that America made over the last decade with a huge loss of life, high levels of pain and often  lifelong disability and the loss of expensive equipment and material.

We don’t know what other steps the Obama Administration plans to initiate but we know that several Navy vessels, including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and the Amphibious Transport Dock Ship Mesa Verde have moved into position in the Persian Gulf.  It would seem that precision missile or fighter strikes might give the Iraqi’s time to regroup and redeploy but we certainly don’t want America embroiled in a religious war which the Sunni-Shia conflict is likely to become.

But of immediate and critical importance to each of us is making sure that our brave combatants over there be given every supply item, other support, and combat weaponry necessary to conduct their mission without undue risk.  Never again do we want to see Americans in a situation like the case in Benghazi where brave men fought for their lives expecting reinforcements to assist them who never came.  Regardless of the cause, it was a shameful moment in our glorious history when we failed to bring our boys home.

Let us together pray that our wonderful combatants in such a far distant and hostile place as today’s Baghdad are successful in protecting the Embassy and its personnel and that none return home in a body bag. We don’t need any more funeral honor guards and flag-draped caskets at military funerals.  America has had enough of the death of our finest. Let’s bring them home alive and well so that we can cheer them and celebrate them as the heroes that they are.

Dear Lord:   Thank you for giving us your love and grace and for the gift of these young and valiant soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who willingly give of themselves and risk their lives for us.  Be with them, guide them and protect them and keep them alive with your Spirit and love so that they might safely return home to their loved ones.  And be with their families who are worried about them and miss them terribly and give them peace.  And help mankind to find a way to solve problems and disagreement peacefully and with love instead of hate and hostility.  We ask in the name of the One who died for us, Jesus Christ, so that we might have the opportunity for everlasting life, Amen.

God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.  May peace infect your heart and guide your actions and may our young warriors be granted a life of peace and joy when the battle is done.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

 

Would It Be a Lonely Father’s Day?

John Hardy was an elderly man and lately he was feeling more lonely and sad than he could remember since his wife died six years ago.  With his three children busy with families of their own and scattered across the country, he knew that they had little time for him these days and he remembered that he had been the same way himself as a young man. 

Oh, he loved his dad, just like he knew his children loved him, but it still made him feel sad and lonely not seeing them very often.  All he had left were the memories of his family when they were all together and, sadly, regrets for neglecting his father in his later years.

In good health, John had developed a daily routine which is what kept him going. He got up early, went for a brisk walk, fixed himself breakfast and then visited the cemetery.  He went every day and sat on a bench next to the gravesite of his beloved Rebecca, who had been his one and only for thirty-five years before her death. Upon his return, he worked on his roses, beautiful bushes that had been started by his wife and which reminded him so much of her.

Once a week he would play a round of golf with a fellow retiree, his good neighbor Robert, who was lucky to still have his wife at his side.  Robert always complained about his wife and her lengthy “honey do” list but John reminded him routinely of his good fortune to have her still with him as a partner in his life.  The two duffers always wagered a small amount or a lunch on their game and enjoyed their camaraderie.

The other thing important in his life was his church and he made it a habit to never miss Sunday services.  He knew that it wouldn’t be too many years before he would leave this world and he wanted to be sure he would be joining Rebecca, a woman who had always been devout in her belief in the Savior.  He served as an usher and also taught an adult Bible school class for his age group.  Golf, his roses and his church were the things that kept him going.

Coming home from church on one particular Sunday, he thought about the minister’s remarks about fatherhood and realized that it was Father’s Day.  He had forgotten about it since normally he received a card the day prior from each of his children and a phone call, but this year they must have forgotten and that added to his sadness.

After eating a sandwich with a glass of good Southern sweet iced tea, he opted for a nap.  He was tired and it was oppressively hot outside so he thought that some rest might make him feel better. He drifted off quickly and dreamed that same wonderful dream he experienced so many times before: Sunday afternoon at the lake with his wife and children when they were small those many years ago

***

Knock, knock!  John was startled out of his sleep by the noise but it took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t dreaming.  It was at the front door and it was persistent.  Rubbing his eyes and then tucking in his shirt, he walked toward the door.  There was a large black stretch Lincoln limo parked in the drive and, looking through the window beside the door he saw his three children, their spouses and four of his grandchildren.  He was amazed at how big they were.

He opened the door to find John, Jr. smiling broadly as he said, “Well, Dad, it’s about time you opened the door.  We thought we came all this way for nothing.”

Gaining his composure he hugged his oldest, then his other two boys, Tim and Frank, their spouses and the four youngsters.

He ushered everyone in and seated them in the living room, then the three ladies said they wanted to freshen up. So here was John, suddenly rejuvenated, bright and cheerful with the appearance of those he most loved in the world today right there in front of him.

Tim spoke next saying, “We just decided to surprise you, Dad, that’s why you didn’t hear from us. Your buddy Robert told us you would be here.  He knows your schedule like a book.”

Next, Frank broke in, adding, “We linked up in Chicago and flew the final leg together.  How do you like that limo we rented; get ready, we’re taking you out to dinner and then we’ll come back here and celebrate your big day.”

John was overwhelmed and started tearing up saying, “I almost thought you boys had forgotten me. This is the best surprise of my life.”

They spent a few moments getting acquainted after a long separation and then everyone got ready to go out.  Much to the delight of John, the boys had made reservations for dinner at Luigi’s, a local landmark and Rebecca’s favorite, the place where John took her for any special occasion.  It had a wonderful old world ambiance with original Italian and continental cuisine just like it was when the original Luigi opened the restaurant.  It was now in its third generation of Luigi as owner and operator.

Dinner was wonderful, they took their time laughing and remembering the old days and enjoyed a fine bottle of red wine for the occasion.  Luigi had obviously made special arrangements for them as the table was extraordinary with the beautiful fresh cut flowers and the finest linen and silverware.

Before leaving, Luigi came out with a beautiful Italian cream cake and a gallon of hand packed, homemade Pistachio ice cream packed in dry ice.  He told them to take it home, let their stomachs settle a bit and they would then enjoy it more.  The three sons just smiled as they looked at their father’s face beaming.  It was worth the trip just for that moment alone.

Arriving back home, John, Jr., Tim and Frank exited the house briefly and when they returned they carried a huge package saying, “Go ahead, it’s your day.  Open it.”

John was all thumbs as he took the wrapping of a large oblong box.  Peering inside he grinned from ear to ear.  His family had bought him a new golf bag and a top of the line titanium driver.

Turning to them all, he laughed and said, “Robert better watch out on the golf course now.  This is bound to take some strokes off my game.”

Later, after they had talked and enjoyed the cake and ice cream, John was showing he was tired and the boys suggested they all turn in.  Asking if they needed to make any beds, John told them that the beds were all made and ready. By habit, he did that anytime a rare visitor departed.  It was at times like this that he was glad he had kept the big old house.

The following morning they enjoyed a family breakfast and then John’s family prepared to depart.  John was truly touched by the visit and he asked them not to be so scarce in the future.   Tim responded by asking if the whole family could plan a get together for Christmas week.  Each of the boys offered to host it but John suggested they come home.  He did, after all, have plenty of room and so it was set.

As they drove off in the limo after the whirlwind visit, John said a short prayer thanking his Lord for the good fortune he had to have such wonderful kids.  He promised to keep his loneliness under check and would look forward eagerly to the upcoming Christmas.

And then he thought to himself that now it’s time to pull out that driver and go to the driving range and try it out.  He chortled to himself as he realized that Robert wouldn’t even know what hit him on their next golf outing.

I wish a Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there and I hope Sunday is special to you in all ways.  God bless.

James Dick

www.northfloridawriter.com

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 Selection as a Best Read of the Year by American Pet Magazine

 

The Impact of Loneliness

I recently read an enlightening article in the American Spectator which discussed the problems caused by loneliness in America today.  A National Science Foundation General Social Survey conducted by sociologists from Duke and the University of Arizona found that living alone is a lifestyle for about sixteen percent of the population, a three-fold increase in the last fifty years. If you also take into consideration the impact of single parent families, latch key children, and the limited interface between family members in a busy world, the impact of loneliness on the human psyche is much more prevalent. Since we humans are naturally social animals, the lack of sufficient time with others on a regular basis can result in a feeling of isolation which may result in higher levels of depression and the debilitation of social skills.

It’s a problem that we need to face because at some point many of us may be faced with life in this situation.  It can be caused by death or divorce or be a voluntary response to rapidly changing life conditions with the nuclear family and an increasing reliance on technology as a replacement for social interface.  But whatever the cause, it is with us and it has been with us for a long time.

In deciding how best to approach this subject, it suddenly hit me that this Friday is the anniversary of D Day in Europe, an event which caused widespread loneliness for many as their primary loved ones were overseas fighting wars both on the European continent and in the Pacific.  While many came home months later, some never returned.  In remembrance of D Day and the horrors of Normandy which our brave soldiers faced, this is a good time to remember the loneliness faced by so many loved ones waiting and worrying back home.  There is no better way to understand it than through a story.  I hope it makes you think about the nature of loneliness and the importance for us to live life to the fullest with full social interaction.  After all, God made us to be with people.

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It was late afternoon and Myrna was exhausted. Dedicated to her work, she knew it was important to finish turning the documents on her desk into smooth, final typed copy before leaving.  Lonely and in her early twenties, her life revolved around her work in the typing pool and her church.  She never thought life at this stage would be like this.  At the end of the day, she had no one waiting at home.

A small framed pretty woman with a perfect complexion, beautiful dark eyes and long brown locks, she eschewed make-up other than lipstick and always wore her hair up in a bun under a hat when outside.  Even when the hat was removed, Myrna never let her hair down except when she was home and alone.  She didn’t want to be noticed; she just wanted to do a good job while maintaining a distance from her co-workers.  She became more open with a few friends she trusted at church, but even then she was reserved and quiet.  She was pleasant, but also sad and those around her sensed that.  She rarely showed her sweet smile.  Of course, many young women were sad in those days due to loved ones being away at war, but Myrna never indicated that she had any close loved ones.  She seemed as if she had always been alone.

Myrna worked for the War Department in the casualty support unit.  Her job consisted of getting combat death announcements in final form before next of kin were notified.  She took her job seriously and was routinely cited for her excellent and error-free work.  She just figured it was the least she could do and nobody in her office knew just how much she took each notice to heart. 

Myrna had a big secret that she shared with no one, not even her pastor.  When her boyfriend enlisted the prior year, two days after Pearl Harbor, the two had quickly eloped and married.  They did so in a town fifty miles away where the only record was in the neighboring county courthouse.  Since her parents were gone and she had no siblings no one had any reason to suspect she was married.  She married her Paul so that he would know that she was committed to him and would wait for him while he was at war.  She kept her secret so that she wouldn’t worry anyone else.

Except for the night after their civil ceremony and on the weekend before he was sent overseas, she had not spent any intimate time with him.  And now, with him off in the South Pacific where the war was going poorly, she lived in constant dread that one of those documents crossing her desk for typing would be one with his name on it.  Despite her feelings of dread, she never showed any emotion to others even though she was crying inside.

That evening on her way home from work she remembered it was Wednesday and it was the one day other than Sunday when her church had a short prayer service and social gathering.  She decided to stop by as it was only a couple of blocks from her apartment and the stop where she caught the bus. 

The church was well lit and cheery as she entered and immediately walked down the stairs to the social hall.  Pastor Millwood saw her and gave her a big hug saying, “We’re glad you came, Myrna.  You just seem so sad and maybe some time with God’s people will cheer you up.”

She thanked him for his thoughts, said hello to a few friends, and then all were seated for the prayer session.  Each was asked to say a silent prayer and then afterwards they could share their thoughts if they desired. 

Then Pastor Millwood would wrap it up with a grand finale.  He had such a gift with words and was so upbeat always; it helped everyone in this mostly ladies audience, many of whom had loved ones in harm’s way.

Myrna closed her eyes and prayed a very simple prayer saying, “Lord, Thank you for the love and devotion that you give to me.  Be with my Paul and keep him safe.  Let him know how much I love him and care for him. And give me the strength to remain strong and carry on as he would want me to do.  Keep my heart focused on the Spirit and away from all forms of evil.  Amen.”

Myrna chose to keep her thoughts to herself, enjoyed a cup of soup and some delicious homemade bread and said her goodbyes.  At least she wouldn’t have to prepare any dinner when she got home.  She hated eating alone.

As she entered her small apartment, she turned on the radio for the news and got ready for bed.  She sat up long enough to hear the latest from the Pacific front and about the fighting on the islands.  She shook slightly as she thought of Paul on a faraway island which was possessed by fear and hate.  She prayed that he would survive physically intact and without any lasting psychological scars.

As she crawled into bed and turned off the lights and the radio she looked at the ceiling and again softly asked God to please keep Paul safe and return him to her. Then she cried herself to sleep, knowing that life had to go on.

In sleep she finally found peace as she dreamed of sitting on a beautiful beach and enjoying Paul’s company. Oh, if only her dream could last forever so that her loneliness would be gone.  That would bring her the joy and happiness that her life was missing.

When she awoke and faced the reality of another day, she readied herself for work.  She knew that her faith, hope, and her love for Paul and her God would have to keep her going and a new daily cycle was underway.

 

I hope that this little story effectively portrayed how this young woman, who desperately wanted a life of happiness and joy with the man she loved, sank into isolationism and hidden despair through no fault of her own.  It was a situation faced by many who had their life directly impacted by war and it was beyond her control to influence.  The only thing left she had to sustain her was her faith and her prayers.

And now in modern day America there are so many more factors which sadly can cause an enforced loneliness in lifestyle.  Our modern, anything goes morays often lead to divorce which breaks up more and more families.  For others, the desire to actually build a family is given up, choosing to live a lifestyle without commitment and family ties.  The advent of the nuclear family has also taken away much of the life enriching value of the close multi-generational family, with no commitments or responsibility for one another.  And finally, the advent of the internet, social media, and such technology as I-phones has killed off much of the needed social interactions that we need in a personal setting.  “Talking” on-line is much different than the closeness of actual human interpersonal contact.  In short, we find ourselves alone more often without even realizing it.

So is there anything we can do or anyone who can help us recover our good social health?  Yes, there is.  We can turn to God and use our faith to help us.  God is the one who can keep us from being alone no matter where we find ourselves and by listening to His word and following His guidance we can restructure ourselves to bring our social selves more alive in all that we say and do.  To truly live our lives as He intends, it is something that we need to do, for He expects us to live in a community of others to carry out his mission for us.

God bless each of you, and please take the time to analyze your own experience and see where or if something is lacking.  If you are alone and become aware of its adverse impact, get some help and turn life around.  Life with people in it, people you care for and love, makes living so much better. It’s never too late to change.  And never forget those brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live free.

 

Written by:

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

www.northfloridawriter.com

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark