The month of February is marked by Valentine’s Day when many people celebrate their love for each other.
However, for a growing number of people, of all ages, there is no-one to celebrate this love with, so for some this day can flair up the deep sense of loneliness that had only just quietened down after Christmas.
In January, MP’s from several parties launched the ‘Jo Cox commission on loneliness’ and will produce a manifesto of its findings at the end of this year.
Jo Cox, (an MP murdered in 2016) first noticed loneliness when she watched her grandfather stop and chat to people as he did his postman’s rounds. Jo realised that this was the only conversation many people had each day.
The commission will partner with 13 charities who work with a range of vulnerable people, ‘including desperately sad children; new mums grappling with a fresh identity; isolated disabled people; and men for whom statistics on suicide point to a silent epidemic.’
It is hoped that one of the things that will be highlighted is that loneliness ‘‘is a problem on every street, in every neighbourhood, in every family, and if we all took action we could do a lot to combat loneliness and social isolation”.
Jo’s work has echoes of Mother Teresa who decades earlier noted that “the greatest disease in the West today..... is being unwanted, unloved and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty – it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
So as we rightly celebrate love on Valentine’s Day, let’s also mark February as a month when we will also, start a conversation in the queue, ring someone, have a coffee, take time to walk slowly, put down the gadgets and the watch to pause and notice. Make eye contact, smile at the stranger, visit or phone a friend. Let’s make February a month where, however hectic our lives may be, we prioritise making time for the people in and around our lives in danger of suffering from this epidemic of loneliness and isolation.
The Reverend Fiona Hall
Team Vicar St George's Church