There is a little volume called The All Better Book in which elementary school children try to solve some of the world’s knottiest problems: what to do about the ozone layer, and how to help people stop smoking. Here’s the toughest:
“With billions of people in the world, someone should be able to figure out a system where no one is lonely. What do you suggest?”
People should find lonely people and ask their name and address. Then ask people who aren’t lonely their name and address. When you have an even amount of each, assign lonely and not lonely people together in the newspaper.
KALANI, AGE 8 (OBVIOUSLY THIS IS A GIRL WITH THE GIFT OF ADMINISTRATION.)
Make food that talks to you when you eat. For instance, it would say, “How are you doing?” and “What happened to you today?”
MAX, AGE 9
We could get people a pet or a husband or a wife and take them places.
MATT, AGE 8 (THIS MAKES YOU WONDER ABOUT MATT’S UNDERSTANDING OF MARRIAGE.)
But the most touching response, the one that can break your heart, comes last:
Sing a song. Stomp your feet. Read a book. (Sometimes I think no one loves me, so I do one of these.)
BRIAN, AGE 8
“With billions of people in the world, someone should figure out a system where no one is lonely.” For centuries, some of the smartest grown-ups who ever lived have devoted themselves to this problem. This God-designed hunger for community is why Plato wrote The Republic and Augustine wrote The City of God. It’s why so many of our stories are about our longing to reach community—from The Odyssey to Walton’s mountain, from Camelot to Lake Wobegon, from Mayberry to Boyz in the Hood. It’s why we attend churches, join bowling leagues, go on blind dates.
It’s why the single-most-remembered American speech of the twentieth century was a plea for all human beings one day being able to eat together at the table of fellowship, join hands, and sing a common song. Social scientist Jean Elshtain notes that Martin Luther King Jr. captured the conscience of a society because he was articulating, not just his dream, but the human dream—God’s dream. “His speech would never have seized the nation if he had stood before the Lincoln Memorial and stated, ‘I have a preference. I have a personal preference today.’”
Ortberg, J. (2009). Everybody’s normal till you get to know them. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.