People Do Need People!
Is it just me, or does it seem that people don’t even try to be nice anymore? Maybe it’s just because I’ve been sick for the last 3 weeks and my tolerance is ebbing low. But too often they appear to be out of control. Just this week two people flipped me off as they jutted in front of me after passing because I was going the speed limit. I’m too intimidated to react because, after all, they may shoot me. And PLEASE don’t let my windshield wiper fluid spray a bit on the car behind me!
We can’t use “COVIDitis” as a reason any longer. People have just been weird! Will Smith smacked Chris Rock at the Oscars. A gate agent was punched at the Atlanta airport. (I know…I missed my flight too!) Missouri is discussing arming healthcare workers with “panic” buttons because patients have been behaving so violently. When did we go from applauding health care professionals to threatening to kill them? Murder rates and road rage statistics seemingly continue to rise. More Americans are buying guns. And, although owning a gun doesn’t make it more likely that you will kill someone, it does make it more likely that you will be successful if you lose control and try. The rudeness seems to be contagious.
The pandemic certainly threw us for a loop. Statistics show that people drank more, did more drugs, and had more open displays of rage since Covid attacked our lifestyle. Kids stopped going to school. People stopped going to work. Families stopped going to church. Travel decreased and isolation increased dramatically. When we become untethered to people, we lose our sense of social norms, our empathy for others. We begin to prioritize our own interests above those of others.
Guess what…WE ALL NEED PEOPLE! It’s a fact that is generally accepted, but we usually think of it in terms of “I need people” rather than “people need me.” In our isolated environments, our need for people became myopically focused… “I” need people. Our society rapidly became focused on asking ourselves, “What can I gain from this person, rather than what can I give to this person.” We are failing to realize that great fulfillment and pleasure is derived from helping others while, at the same time, focusing on how hurt and offended we are when we don’t receive that help. Are we losing our sense of the value of friendship?
I love the background story to the Simon and Garfunkel song, The Sounds of Silence. It is a classic and begins with, “Hello darkness, my old friend…” Art Garfunkel was a Jewish kid from Queens enrolled at Columbia University in New York City. At freshman orientation he met a young man from Buffalo who shared his passion for music and literature named Sandy Greenburg. They became roommates and best friends, promising each other that they would always be there for each other.
It wasn’t long until Sandy’s vision became blurry. It was originally diagnosed as temporary conjunctivitis, but his vision continued to deteriorate, and a specialist gave him the devastating news that it was severe glaucoma, and his optic nerves were quickly being destroyed. He would soon become completely blind.
Sandy dropped out of school and moved back to Buffalo, becoming severely depressed. He gave up his dream of becoming an attorney and cut off all contact with his old friends, refusing to answer letters or return phone calls. But suddenly, Art showed up at his door in Buffalo. He refused to let his friend give up on life or his dreams. He convinced Sandy to return to school and promised he would be right there by his side throughout the journey, making sure he didn’t fail. Art never wanted Sandy to feel he was alone, even though he was shrouded in darkness. In fact, Art nicknamed himself “Darkness” and he would speak of himself in the third person to Sandy. He’d say things like, “Darkness is going to read to you now.” Art looked for ways to organize his life around Sandy to help him succeed.
One day, Art was guiding Sandy through Grand Central Station, a place they used frequently. Art suddenly told Sandy he had to go to an appointment and, after listening to Sandy argue, left his friend alone and petrified. Sandy bumped into things and people. He fell, cutting his shin. But after a couple of nightmarish hours, Sandy finally got on the right subway train to go back home. After exiting the station at 116th street, a man bumped into Sandy. After profusely apologizing, Sandy recognized the voice of his old friend, Art. Art had followed him the whole way, making sure he was safe.
At first Sandy was angry. It had been a hellish experience. But what Sandy soon realized was that Art gave him the priceless gift of independence, freeing him to live a life without fear and doubt. Sandy graduated from Columbia and then earned doctorates from Harvard and Oxford. He married his high school sweetheart and became an extremely successful entrepreneur, inventor, author, and philanthropist. He is well known for his efforts to end blindness.
While at Oxford, Art contacted Sandy, asking for his help. He had formed a folk-rock duo with an old high school friend, Paul Simon. They desperately need $400 to record their first album. Sandy and his wife had a little over $400 in their savings account at the time, but he did not hesitate to empty it and send Art the money. That first album wasn’t a success, but only a year later, The Sounds of Silence (written by Paul Simon) became a #1 hit.
Sandy considers himself the luckiest man in the world. Art considers Sandy’s friendship as the best gift he could have ever had stating, “…my real life emerged. I became a better guy in my own eyes and began to see who I was, somebody who gives to a friend.”
We don’t have to have a disabled or blind friend or a pandemic to see how much people need people. Giving to others can provide real meaning to our lives…real purpose. Giving is what life is all about.
How much of a “giver” are you? As I look back at the period of social isolation we are now coming out of, I see that I have often failed at this. As always, opportunities abound! How often do you look for ways to help people? Sometimes it is enough just to be there, to give praise to them, to celebrate their successes, and to comfort them in their sorrow. Friends are a real gift. Love them, hug them, encourage them, be loyal to them, and sacrifice for them. If you want more true friends, be one.
“Greater love has no one than this: that a person will lay down one's life for one's friend.” John 15:13
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to die for others. But it may certainly mean that you need to die to your own selfish desires to better serve that friend, that mate, that family member. Friendship requires time and sacrificial love. A true friend speaks truth into your life, even when it is difficult to hear. True friends want what is best for you, even if it means surrendering some of themselves. I hope you take time this week to cultivate your friendships. They are precious treasures! I hope you will also begin to take time to look for ways to give to people, rather than looking only to receive…to be nice to people just because. For some, you may actually be the only “Jesus” they will see this week, the only caring, the only genuine kindness. People DO need people. As my young daughter explained to me when she was aching over the death of her father, “Mommy, I know God is there and he is my father, and he loves me and cares for me. But sometimes I just need some skin!” Be his skin. Give and love like him. Your life will be enriched the more you pour yourself into others!
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply
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