The poet Rupert Brooke set out to travel by boat from England to America. Everyone on deck had someone there to see him or her off – everyone except him. Rupert Brooke felt lonely, terribly lonely. Watching the hugging and kissing and good-byes, he wished he had someone to miss him.
The poet saw a youngster and asked his name. “William,” the boy answered.
“William,” he asked, “would you like to earn a few shillings?”
“Sure I would! What do I have to do?”
“Just wave to me as I leave,” the lonely man instructed.
It is said that money can’t buy love, but for six shillings young William waved to Rupert Brooke as the boat pulled out. The poet writes, “Some people smiled and some cried, some waved white handkerchiefs and some waved straw hats. And I? I had William, who waved at me with his red bandana for six shillings and kept me from feeling completely alone.”
We are all lonely at times. But here was a man who was strong enough to admit his loneliness. One psychotherapist says that a necessary first step toward coping with loneliness is for people to feel free simply admitting they are lonely. For once we recognize it, then we can do something about it.
What can we do? Reach out to friends and family. Too many people are lonely because they have been building walls instead of bridges.
We can also find others who may be lonely and help fill their emptiness. The world is full of them. Mother Teresa used to describe loneliness as “the biggest disease” of our time. And the loneliest do not all reside in nursing homes, nor do they all live by themselves.
Finally, we can recognize that, spiritually, we are not alone. This is a time for us to dig deep into our spiritual being.
Lily Tomlin quipped, “We’re all in this alone.” But, of course, that isn’t true. And great joy comes from discovering the power in the word “together.”