What to do with a lonely person …

I’m an intensely observant person.

Part of that comes from how God has wired me, part of that comes first from training as a journalist, then training as a therapist. It just seems natural for me that when people are around, I’m observing their behavior.

So there I was, sitting in a comfortable leather chair in a Caribou (Minnesota’s version of Starbucks) when I spotted her.

Really, she just stood out, literally.

In the store there were six female college students talking loudly and enthusiastically around a large table. Two other male college students at separate tables were deep into their reading and study. There were two other pairs of ladies perched on chairs and leaning into each other, talking rapidly, appearing to be friends sharing stories. And there was a short line of people waiting to place their orders.

Then, there was her.

She was an older lady with a big multi-colored cloth purse dangling from her right arm as her hand held a large tea from which she sipped slowly through a straw. She just stood in the middle of the store, appearing as if she had no idea what to do with herself and was trying to figure that out.

She finally settled into an empty leather chair, and there she slowly finished her tea while she gazed blankly out the window. She would occasionally glance at the different people around her, somewhat wistfully, as if wishing she could join in the conversations.

As I observed her, the thought came to mind: “If Jesus walked in, I know who He would choose to talk to.”

It would be the lonely woman.

I don’t know this lady’s story, I don’t even know if my observations of her are correct. But watching her made me think that, for some people, the only way they will be loved is if someone purposely walks into their lives.

This woman may have children and several grandchildren, and lots of friends, all who love her. But a person who is routinely loved doesn’t usually appear so uncomfortable and so alone those times when they are alone.

Have you ever been in this woman’s shoes? In a room full of people who know each other, and are comfortable engaging in conversation with each other, but you don’t know a soul there? Have you ever known the awkwardness of being the lonely person?

I have.

What a joy it is to have someone step up and say hello!

What a perplexing thing it is to try to figure out what to do with yourself when no one notices your existence.

There are a lot of people out there who are lonely. They’re ignored by their family, their few friends have little to do with them, their co-workers shun them. Perhaps just because they’re a little different … shy, more quiet, reserved … they’re not naturally equipped to know how to engage strangers, or how to fit in even with people they know.

These kinds of people don’t always make for the most fascinating friends, or the person you would pick first to spend your time with. But they need you, and they need me. Well, they need someone to step into their lives and just be kind to them, just be friendly to them, just love them if just a little.

These are the kinds of people who will largely go through life unloved unless others take the initiative to step into their lives.

Let’s do that!

Forget about why they’re so shy, or how perhaps they need to learn to be more assertive. Forget about any of that. Let’s just step into their lives and offer them a little love.

Jesus would.