The Lonely “One”

I was reading an article about people who spend Thanksgiving alone and discovered that this is a hot-button topic that triggers a whole range of emotions in people – especially when the question is posed on Facebook.  I guess that should not surprise me too much; Facebook seems to bring out the debate in everyone, but in this discussion I could not help but detect a lot of pain going on behind the variety of responses.  Many were gushing about the joys of having a day to themselves; others were downplaying the significance of the day, but behind it all there were many who were angry at the question because they felt it was “pouring salt in the wound.”

I am not spending the day alone this year, but I have been on the lonely side of Thanksgiving plenty of times and the one thing I most vividly recall about it is that regardless of what I might have said at the time, I always felt isolated and lonely whenever I had to spend Thanksgiving Day alone.  Even the years of the dreaded “sympathy dinners” with well-meaning acquaintances or colleagues, I still felt isolated and yes, even cut off from the rest of the community because I was not with the people that I loved.  There I said it – I need other people – people I love – in my life – all the time…

I know that there are many reasons we find ourselves alone during the holidays, and I know that a lot of the time it is simply out of our control.  But I also know from experience that we only make things worse when we pretend that we are not bothered by it.  When we make that pretension, we are committing an injustice against ourselves and then passing that same expectation on to everyone else.  The truth is that there is nothing wrong with needing to be a part of something greater than ourselves because it is a built-in need.  And it is quite natural to hurt when we feel left out.  Humans were meant to be together, and to deny it is to deny our very humanity.  We are not a society of individuals who happen to be surrounded by other individuals.  We are a community of people who need each other to flourish, and when we pretend otherwise – well, we wither.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year, but I think that what I am most grateful for is that today I am not alone…


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