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You can’t cure loneliness with just a pop of a pill

POSTED: April 11, 2010 5:30 a.m.

If you watch commercial TV for more than an hour, you’re likely going to see commercials for various pharmaceutical products.

They advertise stuff that, for example, will help relieve arthritis pain or help you stop smoking. I love the part when they start rattling off the potential side effects. You may lose your sight, not be able to drive or face a possible embarrassing situation.

They peddle stuff on TV that they claim will cure most anything. But all the great researchers in all the great universities and hospitals have not found a medicinal cure for one of our most common problems: loneliness.

I was tuning in and out of "American Idol" the other night and they were singing songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The two of them wrote a lot of songs that were incredible hits. Some of them, like "I Want to Hold Your Hand," were just good rock ’n’ roll classics.

One of the singers, Michael Lynche, performed the haunting "Eleanor Rigby," in a bluesy setting.

The song has a line that I am reminded of so often: "Ah, look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from?"

Billy Joel, in his song, "Piano Man," writes about a saloon’s lonely patrons. "They’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, ’cause it’s better than drinkin’ alone."

I think we all have had a time in our lives when we have felt lonely. Unfortunately, there are people who, for one reason or another, live that way day in and day out.

Ask a bartender and they will tell you that there are people who come in every day and try to find some solace in a bottle. There is no drug and no booze that will take it away. They may mask the symptoms for a time, but they come back.

Read the story of someone who lives beyond 100 and you’ll read about someone who more than likely overcame loneliness. If you live for a century, you’ve probably outlived your siblings, a spouse and one or more of your own children. Someone who is 100 today was an adult during the Great Depression and developed survival skills in the hardest of times.

Today’s society, which has conditioned us to be afraid of one another, will contribute to growth in the number of lonely people. We are transient people and sometimes finding a niche in a new community doesn’t come easy.

I know there are folks who have some phobia about venturing out of their own homes; however, the world is full of people who are starving for somebody to be nice to them. It doesn’t cost a thing to smile at someone and say hello and wish them a good day.

Inviting a neighbor over for a sandwich or a cup of coffee will cost you little, but pay incredible dividends. There are people who have lost a spouse and a phone call from you might be the only voice they hear that day, other than the voice of a TV announcer telling them about some miracle drug that will cure everything ... except loneliness.

Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.



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