This week the Surgeon General announced that we have in America a crisis of loneliness. According to the doctor, the effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking twelve cigarettes a day. In other words, this emotional problem can result in physical consequences.

Human beings are the only creatures that cannot survive by themselves. They must experience love in community, or they will die.

So says the Bible.

So says the world of religion.

So says the world of psychology.

I learned from an acquaintance about a headmaster of a Christian Academy who he met over forty years ago. The Headmaster’s name was Lou Snyder, and he was shaken by a troubling event.

Enrolled in the academy was a student, a young man we’ll call Tommy.* Tommy was one of those kids who simply did not fit in. He had average or below-average intelligence, talents, and looks. Rarely did the other students engage in interaction with Tommy. When they did, Tommy’s actions were often awkward. Consequently, he was a part of no group. While they did not shun him, the other students kept him at a distance. He was in the school but not a part of the school. Lou said that Tommy was the loneliest kid he had ever seen.

Speaking with tears in his eyes, this Headmaster said, “That boy went home one day, got into his bed, and died.”

Medical personnel found no physical reason for Tommy’s death. Instead, he died because nobody loved him, and it hurt so bad that you might say Tommy died of a broken heart.

Watch out for people around you who are hurting.

Watch out for people who are lonely.

Watch out for people who are unloved or believe no one loves them.

Then do something to show them that you do. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Just treat that person in a way that is consistent with this belief—he or she is made in the image of God.

Your attitude and action could save a life.