Several months after my husband of 29 years suddenly passed away, I moved from the Chicago area back down to southern Illinois. We had lived in this town eight years prior, and both of my kids still lived there. Since we had been very active in the local community and church, I expected to have a good support group there. However, after several months of no one checking up on me, no one inviting me anywhere, and no one to do things with, I realized I had been wrong.
For whatever reason, I spent the first couple of months alone. As an introvert, the idea of trying to meet new people was incredibly daunting and it was very difficult not to fall into a deep depression. I drank a lot and watched TV. I knew God had more in store for me than this, but I had no idea where to start.
. . . Except that a few years earlier I had gone through the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations with our church plant in the Chicago area. I knew about the simple practices that help Christians to build meaningful relationships. Also, I remembered that Jan Teat, one of Q Place’s field staff, had often suggested, “Join some kind of activity that connects you to others. Think about what classes you can take, and attend meetings and groups where you can go and meet people.”
So, I joined a roller derby team! (This isn’t as random as it sounds. Several years ago I started taking roller derby classes and would skate whenever I could. Now I was returning to this outlet of mine and just taking it up a notch.)
I also joined an over 50s tap class and a singles’ group.
While skating, tapping, and mingling, I started noticing the people around me. I started listening to them and tried to ask good questions. (These are three of the 9 Arts.) I started making new friends in the community—none of whom attended my church.
One day at the tap class, one of the dancers started crying. She apologized and said, “I’m sorry, but it was one year ago today my husband died.” I listened and hugged her. I asked her some questions and we talked for a while. I also asked for her phone number and then texted her often over the next couple of days to assure her I was praying for her.
When the singles group meets, I try to remember to ask good questions and be a good listener. When one friend from the group had surgery, she asked me to come stay with her and care for her while she recovered. Two other widows I’ve met there have the same loneliness I had when I first moved. I plan to have dinners with these widows, and in time we could even try going through a guide in the Psalms called Grief: God’s Help in Times of Sorrow.
The simple practices of noticing, listening, loving and asking good questions have really enabled this introvert to combat loneliness and get to know new people. Now when I want to go somewhere, I have several people I can invite, welcoming them to join me! I’m no expert, but I plan to continue practicing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations. I am very eager to see what God has in store for me in this new chapter of my life, and who knows, maybe I’ll get just as good at facilitating, serving together and sharing my faith!
Do you want to get better at reaching out to the people who cross your path? I highly recommend Practicing the 9 Arts of Spiritual Conversations. It’s a great place to start!
Q Place Operations Administrator