This critical shift is in community. People used to not only know their neighbors; they relied on them day-in and day-out. I’ve been reading a book that is an autobiography of a woman who came to the frontier of Illinois with her land-surveying husband right after their wedding. It is called A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois, written by Christiana Holmes Tillson. She encountered a land that was wild and untamed. She discusses a lot about how women supported each other, how they taught each other the things they needed to know. She talked about how she was working in the kitchen until only a few hours before her first child was born, as her husband had invited company over. She was down for a few days, but then went right back to work. The only way this was possible was with the support of her good friend who lived on the next homestead over – and she returned the favor a few years later when her friend delivered.
Reading this book, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own modern American life. Many days go by where I only interact with my husband or the families I work for. I live in a building with seven other families, and I only actually know one of them and can recognize three others by sight, but not name. I’ve talked to some of my friends about this – we’re all part of the Facebook generation – about how we’re closer than we’ve ever been in history, and yet farther away at the same time. Our culture has traded quality friendships for quantity acquaintances.
I don’t have a solution to propose; I think awareness is the only step at this point. All the 12-step programs preach that admitting you have a problem is the first part of healing from it. We, as a culture, have a problem. People are drowning in loneliness in the most connected generation ever to walk this planet. Waking up to this fact is the beginning of the process of correction.