A few years ago, newspapers carried the story of an elderly man in Ohio who froze to death when the utility company turned off his electricity. He owed a bill of $18.38 that he could not pay; the service was discontinued, and he froze to death. It would be easy to get angry with the utility company over that, but to do so would be over simplification, and we, I’m sure, know it. The utility company did not deliberately freeze that man to death, any more than his neighbors deliberately let it happen. The problem was not a shortage of money. Hundreds of people would have gladly paid the bill. The problem was a shortage of community and communication. No one knew the situation until it was too late.

The man was not so much the victim of industrial greed as he was the victim of an increasingly impersonal society. I say this, not in criticism of Ohio, but in an attempt to take an honest look at our society in general. Across our nation and around our world, people sit in isolation and gaze at each other across great chasms of suspicion and at times fear, and are all the while dying inside for want of companionship.

I heard of a radio station in Dallas, Texas, which had a talk show where people just call in, telling something about themselves, and something about the kind of person or persons they would like to meet. The station reports that almost from the beginning the switchboard was swamped with calls. Most of them are the boy-meets-girl variety, but not all of them. One girl who called was blind and was just looking for someone to talk with. A woman called in crying. She explained that her husband of 35 years had left her for a much younger woman. She was immediately ‘adopted’ by a number of people who call or drop by regularly just to visit and be sure she’s all right. One of the more interesting calls was from a young couple looking for foster grandparents. They said, “we need someone to go on picnics with us and our children”.

People everywhere are needing other people. I have to believe that Jesus was thinking of the devastation of loneliness when He prayed that we would be “of one heart and mind”, that we would open up our lives and share them with each other.

There is a way we can read that so as to make it exclusively religious, as though it had to do with Church and nothing else. I don’t think we have any right to read it that way. If our sense of community is confined just to the organizational life of the Church, then there is something very sterile and superficial about it. Our Lord’s prayer that His followers – each of us – “will be of one heart and mind” reaches out to embrace the broad spectrum of life. He is praying that we will learn to care about each other, that we will open our hearts and minds to each other, that we will share our lives with each other.

I am sometimes convinced that the major malady of our urbanized, polarized society is loneliness. So many people in our world are living in a sort of self-imposed isolation, and are literally dying for want of communication and companionship. So what can you do to address this situation? God is count on us!