That Time I Felt Like a Stray Puppy

Group of multiethnic friends sitting in a circle at parkDepositPhotos

Recently, I was thinking about how loneliness is a quiet, hidden grief.  It’s interesting how you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.  I remember feeling that way when I moved to North Carolina years ago. I was a recently divorced woman who moved over 2000 miles away from her family in Arizona to start a new job.  I quickly found a church family and just as quickly attempted to find ways to get connected.

I remember asking someone after the first Sunday service if they had Sunday School.  They shared with me that they had small groups instead of Sunday School (this was something I had never heard of before). These groups met once a week at someone’s house.  It was such a foreign concept to me that I remember reviewing the list of all the potential small groups and choosing three different small groups to attend. I was eager to see where I might fit best. For several weeks, I attended all three small groups throughout the week.   By the end of the summer, one man in one of the groups jokingly referring to me as the “small group junkie.”

It was the beginning of summer and I also decided to join a ladies Bible study. It met each Sunday night at the church.  For several weeks I showed up to that too.

After reading this list, you might be tempted to think I was connected.  But, let me repeat my first thought…loneliness is often a quiet, hidden grief.  You can show up some place every week, you can go through the motions, you can smile and laugh with the other members of the group, yet through it all there’s this subtle need and ache for more.

Several weeks into the ladies Bible Study I was attending on Sunday, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I was tired of being surrounded by people yet still feeling lonely.  I broke down in tears that night.  I confessed to the group…I’m lonely.  I practically begged that group for something more.  I desperately needed a friend to walk alongside me.  That’s when Michelle looked at me and said four words to me that I will be forever thankful for:  “I’ll be your friend.”  She went on to say that she was a high school teacher, it was summer break, and she would love to be my friend.  (I would find out some time later, after our friendship grew, that she had been praying for a friend to come into her life.)

After that moment, she and her husband became almost like a surrogate family to me.  I was like a stray puppy who had finally found someone who would feed her.  They invited me over on a regular basis,  Michelle and I started a one on one Bible study together, and we sat together at church on Sunday.  I had a friend and the lonely ache subsided.

Today, my final thought is this:  There is someone you will cross paths with this week who is in desperate need of something more.  Don’t assume the person next to you feels connected just because they are sitting in a circle with you. Take some time to invest in that someone this week.

11 thoughts on “That Time I Felt Like a Stray Puppy

  1. LarryTheDeuce

    Eileen, I hear you. I go to church, work and do all sorts of things with my family, but I don’t have a true friend outside of all that. I struggle with whether all of that should be enough, of if there should be more.

    Reply
    1. Eileen Post author

      Larry, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many more folks who struggle with this then actually let on. After I wrote this post, Michelle…the friend I mentioned in this post called and we spoke for about an hour on the phone. I think it’s rare to have tons of friends like this in our lifetime. There are seasons when we just can’t seem to find that one person we “click” with but I think all of us crave friendships that go deeper.

      Reply
    1. Eileen Post author

      Thanks, Betty. I needed to remind myself that I’m not alone and that it’s so important to make time to invest in relationships. It really is a two-way street.

      Reply
  2. Rick

    Eileen, I know the feeling pretty well myself; the other side of the coin for me is that I don’t do small talk well, I don’t care for most of the things that the “average” American male seems to (sports top that list – all variations), and I finally accepted the fact that I’m not willing to settle for shallow relationships and call them good enough. I have a few (very few, to be sure) good, deep friendships – one being almost forty years in duration – and some newer but solid friendships with some folks here. With all my good friends? No subject is taboo and that, to me, is as it should be; if either of us need to talk about something, the only thing that stops a conversation from breaking into tomorrow’s conversation is the clock (insert wry comment, wording of your choice, something about us older folks needing our rest).

    Good post!

    Reply
    1. Eileen Post author

      Good thoughts, Rick. Haha…yes us old people need rest OR another cup of coffee to keep us awake and fully engaged! 😉

      Reply
  3. Bill (cycelguy)

    Wise words Eileen. I am a naturally extrovert so it is not unusual for me to have friends or to start talking. I need to see less of myself and look around more and see who might the “Eileen” in a group.

    Reply
    1. Eileen Post author

      You know, Bill, sometimes I don’t think it comes down to extrovert/introvert. Yes, the extrovert probably has a better chance at making friends and interacting but I still thinks extroverts still may struggle with deeper connections. I think it comes down to the atmosphere and the dynamics within the group. Nowadays, this Eileen tends to do less hiding and more wearing her heart on her sleeve BUT there was a time I would talk but it was kind of the way Rick said in his comment…more superficial and less life changing discussions.

      Reply
  4. Eileen Post author

    After I read all your comments I went for a run this morning. I began thinking about this post and the moment Michelle volunteered to be my friend. I started thinking about how sad it would have been if I had broken down in tears and the group had just offered me some Kleenex and said they would pray for me to find a friend. D’oh! Yes, I know there are some problems people share and the only thing (and BEST thing) you can offer them is tissue and a prayer. But, we need to be aware of the times maybe God is asking us to go a step further…to be “inconvenienced” I am so guilty of forgetting this sometimes. “Group life” shouldn’t just be group life…it should go beyond the circle and become a way of life.

    Reply
  5. Jon Stolpe

    What a great challenge, Eileen! Thanks for your transparency and for the challenge.

    We were created to connect with our Creator and to connect with others. May we all keep our eyes open to the lost and lonely.

    Reply
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