The Power of Connection
Overcoming the poverty of loneliness
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the impact of loneliness on our well-being and health.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (The Power of Connection) and the means to display them.
- Optional: Have available the song ‘The Lonely’ by Christina Perri and the means to play it. It is 4.22 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO4e4nCYBEo
- Have Slide 1 displayed as the students enter.
- Show Slide 2.
Ask the students, ‘Where’s Wally?’ and then give them half a minute to see if they can spot the Wally character.
Ask for a volunteer who thinks he/she has spotted Wally to come and point out where he is.
- Show Slide 3 to reveal the correct answer.
In the famous range of ‘Where’s Wally?’ books by Martin Handford, Wally is always hard to spot because he is hidden in a large crowd.
- Ask the following questions.
- Is it possible to feel lonely in such a crowd?
- If Wally were a real person, could he experience loneliness?
(You may wish to ask one or two students to contribute their answers.)
- The definition of loneliness is ‘sadness because one has no friends or company’.
Show Slide 4.
It is possible to feel as if we have no friends, or that no one understands us at a deep level, even when we are surrounded by others. It is entirely possible to feel lonely in a crowd. Loneliness can still affect people who are surrounded by others and well-connected socially. This is because loneliness is about the quality rather than the quantity of relationships that we have. Someone might have a lot of friends, but still find that his/her need for a deep connection with other people is not met. Some people might feel that they are not really understood or known at a deep level by another human.
- Listen to the lyrics of this song by Christina Perri, which expresses the feeling of loneliness.
As the students listen, ask them to think of the types of situations when they have experienced a sense of loneliness, or situations where they know others had a feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Play the YouTube video ‘Christina Perri - The Lonely’.
- It is said that modern life is making us lonelier. In 2016, according to a report by the Church Urban Fund, ‘64 per cent of Anglican church leaders said that loneliness and isolation was a significant problem in their area – up from 58 per cent in 2011.’ Another survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that in the UK, one in ten of us feels lonely often and 48 per cent of people think that we are getting lonelier in general. In 2014, analysis by the Office for National Statistics even showed that Britain was ‘the loneliness capital of Europe’.
- Show Slide 5.
Loneliness can be considered a form of poverty. Mother Teresa said, ‘The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.’
It has been shown that loneliness increases mortality risk by 26 per cent.
- So, why are we getting lonelier?
Changes in modern society are considered to be the cause. We live in nuclear family units, often living large distances away from our extended family and friends. Our growing reliance on social technology rather than face-to-face interaction is also thought to be making us feel more isolated. A study by the University of Pittsburgh found that people who logged onto social media accounts for more than two hours per day were twice as likely to experience social isolation as those who spent less than half an hour. It means that we feel less connected to others at a deep level and our relationships are becoming more superficial and less rewarding.
- How can we increase our sense of deep connection, to avoid isolation and loneliness? Working at fostering good-quality relationships is important. We can do this by:
- reaching out to a friend or family member
- speaking to someone on the phone, rather than messaging
- spending time participating in hobbies and sports
- volunteering in a school project, or a project in our local community
- spending time with pets
- It has been shown that when we make a meaningful connection with another person or an animal, our bodies release oxytocin, which is a hormone that makes us feel pleasure. This hormone also strengthens our immune system and builds resilience. The more meaningful connections we make, the more this hormone will be released and the better we will feel.
- Let’s remember that faiths around the world promote the idea that connection to others is important. In every major world religion, the concept of ‘treating others with kindness’ is important. Religion reminds us that connection with other people is to be cherished.
- Religion also reminds us that connection with God is important.
Show Slide 6.
The Hebrew text that is sacred to both Christians and Jews says, ‘Your God, the Lord himself, will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.’
Islam teaches that Allah values us and cares for us – that we are not forgotten. In the Qur’an, it says, ‘By the morning brightness, and by the night when it is stillest, your Lord has not forsaken you.’
Even in those moments when we feel alone, these texts remind us that God is there with us and loves us.
Time for reflection
As we think about the theme of today’s assembly, let’s bow our heads and enter a time of reflection.
Let’s take a moment to be quiet and still.
Let’s think about those people who are experiencing the poverty of loneliness, who feel isolated, misunderstood or without meaningful connections. We pause to remember people in our society who are lonely, and ask God to bring them comfort and companionship.
Pause to allow time for thought.
We pause to think about ourselves – especially those moments and situations when we feel alone. We pause to ask God to give us the courage to reach out and find connections that are positive and bring us joy.
Pause to allow time for thought.
We think about those people who volunteer and give up their time to make our society a less lonely place, such as those who work with the homeless, the elderly, the vulnerable and the lonely. We pray for the opportunities to be people who can make a difference to our society.
Pause to allow time for thought.
We pray for the courage to be people of connection,
To work to eradicate the poverty of loneliness in our school community, in our families and in our wider society.
Give us ears to listen to others, eyes that spot when people are in need and hearts that long to connect and to care.
We thank you that you promise to love us and never abandon us.
Optional: ‘The Lonely’ by Christina Perri, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HO4e4nCYBEo