The United Kingdom’s appointment of a ‘Minister of Loneliness’ continues to give me pause for thought. Since the announcement, I have tuned into many related messages and conversations, and am learning with interest of new and ongoing initiatives and services, striving to ease the pangs of loneliness and isolation, that are the existence for so many. It dismays me to know that in a world populated by billions and powered by the world wide web, there are so many craving meaningful connections and longing for welcoming communities.
Perhaps for me, the interest in cultivating beloved communities came initially from a longing for my ‘ain folk’. My adventurous newlywed parents left their homeland to chart a new course and new life in a place ‘far beyond the sea’. Doing so meant that there became an ocean between our wee family and our grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We needed to find other ways of forging connections beyond the family circle to tide us over in between bi-annual visits.
I had a deeper appreciation for the church community that I grew up in, when my father died suddenly one summer. A loving community immediately embraced my mother and assured her of an ongoing safe harbour and many ways of continuing to make her contribution. I returned to support that very community a couple of years ago, when the dwindling population necessitated the closing of their doors after 60 years. But as the church doors closed for the last time, I realized that too grieved the loss of the friendships I had renewed.
And so, I have come to appreciate that as much as I invest in cultivating beloved communities for others (the families in my daughters previous elementary school, my work place colleagues, church communities old and new, my mindfulness groups and Mindful Self Compassion Circles of Practice) I cultivate beloved communities for myself as well.
And so fueled by a deepening awareness of the vast longing and great need, I will continue to extend my hand and reach around the globe, opening my heart and offering opportunities for people to connect in heartfelt ways with one another. Come join us.
Ain Folk by Wilfred Mills & Laura G. Lemon
“Far frae my hame I wander, but still my thoughts return
To my ain folk ower yonder, in the shieling by the burn.
I see the cosy ingle, and the mist abune the brae:
And joy and sadness mingle, as I list some auld-warld lay.
And it’s oh! but I’m longing for my ain folk,
Tho’ they be but lowly, puir and plain folk:
I am far beyond the sea, but my heart will ever be
At home in dear auld Scotland, wi’ my ain folk.
O’ their absent ane they’re telling, the auld folk by the fire:
And I mark the swift tears welling, as the ruddy flame leaps high’r.
How the mither wad caress me, were I but by her side:
Now she prays that Heav’n will bless me, tho’ the stormy seas divide.”