All the Lonely People
I recently ran across a famous study done at Harvard that started in the 1930s that is still ongoing. The results are quite telling…the biggest predictor of happiness and health is having positive relationships with others. In fact, they found that the level of satisfaction with relationships at age 50 better predicts health than cholesterol levels. Amazing, right! A related study found that loneliness is as devastating to your health than smoking or alcoholism. I’ve been thinking about these studies in relationship with the current situation going on in our country. People are angry at a time when social isolation is required. Being cooped up in our homes for the past several months has created a lot of loneliness. So when a black man was senselessly murdered by a police officer, the perfect storm had already been brewing. Now we have a situation that seems to be spinning out of control.
As I talk with my friends, one thing is clear. The overwhelming majority of the white community is outraged and wants change. However, many of us remain paralyzed on what to do. Recently I was part of a conversation involving a white police officer (who also happens to be a former pastor) and he said something that has stayed with me. He said that when he was a pastor, non-white youth told him that they would turn down a different street if they saw a police car up a block ahead. It was their immediate reaction. They were good kids, not doing anything wrong, just terrified of the police. I thought for a moment what that must be like, to be so scared of someone in authority I would go out of my way to avoid them, lest I get on their bad side. Something powerful to consider. The only thing to which I can relate this was crossing the border between France and Italy over 20 years ago on a midnight train. My best friend and I were woken and had to go stand on the platform with all the other passengers while very scary looking armed guards while drug dogs searched for illegal substances. It was an intense experience and I was scared. I know it doesn’t compare, but it’s the closest point of reference I have.
I encourage you not to let the “Black Lives Matter” movement ruin or dominate your relationships. Instead, I encourage you to lean in and listen to what others have to say – with an open mind and an open heart. Thinking back to the studies on positive relationships and the impact to our overall health and well-being, I think we all do ourselves some good if we pay attention to the research and invest in positivity instead of anger and loneliness.