I have lived in my community since 1986. In those 31 years the area has almost doubled in size. Years ago, when we ventured out, we could expect to run into at least one or two people that we knew. But for the last couple of years that hasn’t been the case.
My wife and I have “toyed” with the idea of buying a recreational vehicle, an RV, that we can camp in and ride our bicycles. The reason we have just “toyed” with the idea is because we don’t have any play money to buy such an expensive toy.
To promote this “if I win the lottery dream” we went to the RV show last month at the convention center. Yes, we saw exactly what we would spend our disposable $95,000 on. But what we didn’t see was anyone that we knew at the show.
A couple of years ago a Columbia College researcher estimated that the average American knows about 600 people. Of these 600 people the researchers concluded that most Americans know just 10 to 25 people well enough to say they trust them. In my mind there is a huge gap between knowing and trusting. I see familiar faces at the store all the time but it certainly doesn’t mean that I trust them or that I know their name for that matter.
I used to believe I knew a lot of people. When I was on the session at my church many years ago I took pride in the fact that I could greet the majority of my fellow members by name when I had door duty. Today, I bet I know less than 20% of the members. What has changed? The common denominator is me.
We have an old desktop computer, one the kids used years ago and one that doesn’t get turned on very often. I was searching for a couple of pictures but decided to open my old Outlook contacts page for shits and giggles. What I discovered are people I used to know ten years ago. Some had moved, some had died, and others I had no clue what had happened to them. Granted, some of these were business contacts from my previous life but in this list of 500 people I knew very little about the whereabouts of most of them.
Yes, the common denominator is me. For the people who I have lost, I haven’t replaced them. For the people I used to know, I haven’t kept up with them. I am sure there is some deep psychological meaning to all of this but I have neither the interest or the desire in exploring it. In the end, a handful of people who matter will mourn my passing just as a handful of people rejoiced in my birth.
“I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” – Henry David Thoreau