Isolation and Faith

My son had trouble coming back to school after vacation. He was excited to share things he’d done, but came home that first and second day with the same lament.

Mom: How was it being back with your friends?
Indy: Okay, I guess.
Mom: Why just okay?
Indy: They don’t get me.
Mom: (hair up, teeth barred) Were they mean to you?
Indy: No. They’re nice. They just aren’t interested in me.

Other details came later, but, in short, he feels isolated and misunderstood. Or misunderstood and isolated.  Hard to know which comes first, yes?

Incidentally, the boy is fine. Group dynamics are tough for him. He tends to do the one-friend thing and he has that friend and she’s a doll. So, I’m not worried, but what mother’s heart doesn’t break a little hearing their son echo feelings of isolation?

I had practical advice. Stephen Covey crap without the “how to make friends” punch line.  I told him to ask people questions.  In other words, be interested in them. But, that advice is not really a message of hope is it?  It’s more so a statement about coming to terms with the existential crap sandwich that is humanity. Yeah buddy, unfortunate news flash.  You can count on one hand, for the rest of your life, the people who are genuinely interested in you.

Faith is soooo handy for coming to terms with this reality. Especially if that number of raised fingers on your hand gets low. It’s not that God can be your friend, although some people might think that I guess. It’s that it doesn’t start and end with you and therefore the isolation dissipates a bit. As a person generalizes the horror of their solitary fate, the idea of a source, a constant, a connector of all things alive (and a reason to connect), gets one out of that hole.

Do you agree? To simple? How else can we find hope in isolation? Also any tips on helping my boy, simply, with a message of hope that contains no dogma?


  1. Hell is other people says the Atheist. God is other people says the pastor. You’re both right, of course. Thank you all for the wonderful comments.

  2. Hope is that there are others like you out there. The foundation of my faith is that “you are not alone.”

    There’s this great song by Brighteyes where he sings “You’re not alone in anything, You’re not alone in trying to be.” (from the ladder song, just love it!)

    There is no hope in isolation. We’re simply not built for it as a species, we need one another. However, Jesus said “when two or three are gathered.” So there’s at least 1 or 2 others out there. Keep searching. They’re out there!

  3. Some of us don’t know to ask other people questions. (I had to learn it from Holly, and it still doesn’t come naturally to me. 🙂

  4. You are one of the great listeners in the world, Jamie. In fact, you have the rare ability of making the person you are talking to at the moment feel like the most important person in the world. In fact, You probably made 4 people feel the most important in the last few sentences you wrote. You are like one of those painting where the eyes always appear to be looking at you.

    I vote for more Jamies in the world.

  5. Hell is other people. Once again. Mutual, healthy interest in each other; that’s the learned behavior we’re gunning for, right?But the celebrity/novelist thing is probably dead on. Short of that, not too many people are going to be interested in listening to you. In fact, I’m losing interest in my own train of thought here. Tell Indy to call me and tell me about his day.

  6. True about no one showing interest in anyone’s vacation memories. I probably should have clarified that it wasn’t really about that. It was about other social isolation stuff he faces and articulated well this week. Coming back to school from a break (with a sense of excitement about holding an alligator) just escalated the effect of how he often feels out in the world.

  7. I guarantee Anderson Cooper, maybe the most interesting person on the planet, has this happen to him all the time. Being interesting has nothing to do with it. In fact, I bet it’s even worse for him. I bet he constantly gets “I remember when I took a tour bus through Israel. It was so thrilling.” Then he has to patiently sit through 20 minutes of this person telling him every detail of their “exciting” vacation.

    People don’t care about other people.

    This is a topic that riles me up. Do you know how many conversations I have in my life where the person I’m talking to does not ask me 1 single question?

    In fact, they would rather sit in silence than ask me anything about my life.

    It’s this perspective of humanity that makes me want to just move to the woods and be done with them all.

  8. You might help him turn it around (so it doesn’t look so much like a crap sandwich to either one of you, really)… I mean, honestly, does it take more than a hand or two to count all of the people in the world whose vacation-memories and other minutia really interest YOU? Realistically, if he did something super-dramatic like fly a plane or break a leg, lots of people would care, just like he’d be interested if somebody else did one of those things. But there are probably only a few people whose little details he’d really be interested in sitting and hearing about, maybe just the one. If there are 3 or 4, then you can start working on strategy to become better friends with those 3 or 4. But if he really *wants* everybody to care what he says or what he does… well, that’s when to advise him to become either a novelist or a celebrity! 😀

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