This past December I had an idea on facebook. Instead of sending out holiday cards (which I never do because it makes me crazy), I would give a personalized book recommendation to each of my facebook friends. I have about 150 friends on facebook (I deliberately keep my list small), and I would suggest a different book for each of them, a book I imagined they would like.
It took me over a month, but it was a lot of fun. I kept a list, and I mulled over book ideas for an hour or so every day. I like thinking about books, so this was no hardship. I thought about the tastes and personality and history of the people I knew, I read a few more books to expand my own palate, and I finished my list in early January.
I was surprised at how people reacted to this. It seemed such a small thing to me, and I was a little concerned that my friends would be annoyed by it. But if anyone was, they were kind enough not to say so. Instead, some of my friends were sentimental in their thanks. It was a pleasant surprise. After all, I wasn't actually buying the book.
It is easy to forget how lonely the world is. Or rather, it's easy to believe that the world isn't as lonely for other people as it is for ourselves. Other people must have lives filled with community and fellowship and easy, graceful camaraderie, right? Loneliness must be unique to me. I have been surprised how many people assume that their friendships only exist by fragile accident.
But they don't. Look, I am a mildly grumpy introvert with four small children, easily exhausted by social interaction and having little time to pursue it. If I am in your life, it's because I want to be. If I have a kind word or a friendly welcome for you, it is meant. I'm not flawless, but when I hurt people it's by accident. If I know your name and I smile when I see you, it's because I'm actually glad you're here. Sincere friendships already test my introverted energy; artificial friendships feel like death to me. They are not in my tool set.
My friends are not friends by chance. I can chalk up that first meeting to Providence, but I kept at it because I like you. At the risk of sounding pompous and maudlin, I chose you. And it means the world to me that in some fashion, you chose me back.
I am not a New Year's resolution kinda person. But if I can suggest one thing to keep in mind this year, it's that most people are lonelier than you think. Most of us wonder if we really matter to that other person. Everyone feels on a hard day that they must have been forgotten. The ripples from small kindnesses can be huge.
Even if it's only knowing that someone thought about you.