All the lonely people, where do they come from?
Canada's culture puts a lot of emphasis on helping others. We grow up hearing that it's important for us to share, and support other people, and to make sure that others feel included and appreciated. With all of this, though, Canada has missed out on one crucial aspect- teaching us that it's okay to ask for help. I know first-hand how scary it can be to ask for help. It puts a person in a vulnerable position: to say "I need some support right now", or "I'm not okay" can make someone feel like they're going to be judged, or like they're not able to be independent. As much as we are encouraged to help others, there's still a stigma against the actual act of asking for help.
I think it's important to remember that asking for help can take many forms. Most people will not hesitate to ask for directions; a form of help that rarely comes with judgement from another person, and does not involve much emotional vulnerability. But to say "I'm feeling lost, I'm feeling alone, I'm feeling bored, and I need social connection" is laying a person's vulnerabilities all out on the table. Some people may feel like asking for help makes them weak; and this is the struggle that is sometimes the hardest to overcome.
I would, however, argue the opposite. To me, asking for help is a sign of strength. It's telling another person that you know what you need, what you're missing, and how you want to get it. It's insightful. At the very basic level, humans are social creatures. We crave, and need, human connection. Up until a month ago, most people had ways to ensure that they had some form of social connection. For some, it was seeing their families regularly. For others, it was something as simple as going to the grocery store and having a few minutes to chat with the cashier. A smile goes a long way, as they say. However, that life has been lurched to a halt. It's hard to see a smiling face behind a face mask. It's hard to see family members that live outside our home. It may be impossible to see your partners, or friends, or other loved ones. Suddenly, those ways of finding social connection have been limited, or removed. But humans are social creatures. And we are adaptable. People are finding ways to feel supported, feel social connection, and feel like they aren't alone. This is why I am adamant that asking for help is a sign of strength. It shows your adaptability. It shows your problem-solving. And it shows that you are human.
It's okay to ask for help. And there is no pre-requisite for "how lonely", or "how bored" or "how isolated" someone has to be to feel like they need extra support. To me, two positive lights are going to show up by the end of this. I think this situation is going to give everyone a new appreciation for their family, friends, loved ones, and social connections. And secondly, I think- and hope- that this situation not only gives the opportunity for people to step up to help, as we have already been seeing, but also gives the opportunity for people to feel comfortable to ask for help from others.
So to answer the question- where do the lonely people come from? Well, they come from anywhere, and everywhere. They come from the basic human need for connection. They come from people feeling like they aren't able to turn to their usual support system for comfort. They come from people who's lives have been changed and they are trying to catch up with the drastic and rapid changes that are taking place. I would argue, though, that a more important question is "Where do the lonely people go?". And I'm hoping that they come to us.