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We found a hat- thoughts on loneliness

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

When reading one of our favourite bedtime stories ‘We found a hat’ by Jon Klassen, I started thinking about loneliness. The story- although quite obscure- makes me think of how important it is to share our lives with others, and to have people we are close to. At the end of the story, the tortoise was happier to share a dream with its companion, than to have a material thing, alone.

There are a lot of lonely people out there right now, who would much rather a hug with a relative or a drink down the pub with a friend than a fancy television or smart new clothes. Material things give us a momentary buzz, but come nowhere near the profound impact close relationships have on our well-being. It is, after all, a human need or tendency to be gregarious and sociable

I was fascinated to read in a recent issue of the New Scientist that not being sociable actually alters our immune systems! For survival purposes, humans have evolved to have a predominantly anti-viral immune system due to living in social groups, because viruses are so prevalent. But, hunter gatherers, nomadic goat farmers and the like -who spent much time alone- would have immune systems diverted to being anti-bacterial because the likelihood of them being harmed in an accident or by an animal. A study shows that even now, people who are lonely are more likely to change to an anti-bacterial immune system instead of an anti-viral one, and are therefore could be worse affected by Corona virus! Catch bloody 22!

With this in mind, my heart goes out to all those who are struggling with loneliness right now, and I wonder how we might be able to help each other feel less lonely, while still keeping people safe. It’s given me the kick up the bum I’ve needed to give friends and relatives- who I know are on their own or in difficult relationships- a phone call, or post a letter or a picture from my daughter.

Smiling and waving from afar- to a neighbour or random people in the shop- can lift the heart and signal ‘you’re not alone, we’re in this together’. It amazing how close 2 meters feels now, and how valuable the odd socially distanced chat is for the soul.

I showed my daughter this picture, and talked to her about loneliness. She had some very thoughtful ideas about how we can help people who are feeling lonely. “Buy them a tortoise” was one of her -not quite so helpful- ideas 😂

follow this link and press ‘we found a hat’ button to watch a video of me reading the story.

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