The lady looked at me and smiled modestly. As I chose a table in a local restaurant I looked to see if she was alone. Did I know her? I'll call her Grace, since I had no idea who she was.
Her withdrawn demeanor revealed that she disliked being by herself. As my husband and I proceeded with our meal, I sensed how she might feel. She kept glancing around the area and then down at her napkin.
Then, a short time later another woman came into the dining hall. She was looking for a discreet place in which to dine. I looked to see if she too was alone. Strangely, she sat at a table directly beside Grace. For the sake of my story, I'll name her Fran.
Rather than look around the room and smile at people, she assumed a different stance, one of someone having a self-absorbed independent attitude.
I suddenly heard, "That's a pretty bracelet you have on. Is it silver or gold?" I laid my fork down on my table and looked toward the two women sitting at side-by-side tables. Grace was adamantly trying to engage Fran in conversation.
Fran, after overcoming her facade of neither wanting nor needing company, began to respond. Before long Fran and Grace were talking as if they had been friends for years. I heard them talking about knowing some of the same people and being from the same town.
I sat spellbound. Although I tried to keep from eavesdropping, I felt a warm feeling stealing over me at the scenario the two women were creating.
Two complete strangers who originally acted like they were lonely and seeming to crave solace and companionship turned into happy, joyful and confident individuals in a matter of minutes. They continued laughing and talking and I found this amazing.
When the two parted company, they expressed happiness in meeting and talking with each other. Fran and Grace even hugged. The two women had given one another a sense of value merely by acknowledging her presence, swallowing her pride and attempting to get involved in the other one's life.
When each left the restaurant they appeared to have gained a new sense of worth. Rather than walking with a tired purposeless gait, they walked out like women on a mission.
Just as I had felt saddened as I first watched them sitting alone my sympathy turned to joy when I saw the outcome. I realized that no one has to continue walking alone. If you will reach out and seek the company of other human beings most people will respond.
Regardless of how many material possessions one has, they are unhappy without interacting with other people. It is less important where you live than who your friends are. God created humans to be social, beginning with Adam and Eve. Genesis states "God saw that Adam was lonely so he made him a companion," and more follows that story.
Scripture contains much wisdom concerning the value of friends and friendship. "As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend," says Proverbs 27:17. Another positive reason why we need to seek friendships is found in Proverbs 27:9. "Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend's counsel that comes from the heart." And Grace must have knowledge of Proverbs 18:24, which says "If you want to be a friend you have to show yourself friendly."
More and more studies have been conducted on the benefits of friendships, especially as people age. People who seek friendships and social lives are healthier and definitely happier. If you find you're alone, the worst action you can take is to feel sorry for yourself. Indeed you will never walk alone if you show yourself friendly.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.