December 31 – New Year’s Eve – is celebrated by people all over the world as they wait for midnight and the start of a new year. The crowd will be in Times Square tonight and watch the ball drop despite freezing weather, the congested throng, and tight security. Perhaps there is some kind of order in this predictability, but in the end it’s mostly organized chaos.
So even if I am in middle of that crowd needing to use a toilet but not wanting to give up my space, it is still the loneliest night of the year. Even if I am at a party with close friends or spent way too much money and am in a club with a hundred people, the ball drops, the bells toll, and I’m inevitably a year older. Yes, so is everyone else, but my turning the page is a solitary event, even if I’m kissing someone at midnight.
I say this not to be a party pooper but to recognize the grim reality of celebrating the end of one year and the start of another. In truth it is just another Monday followed by yet another Tuesday, but people have made it into this enormous party that the whole world partakes in with full vigor, not thinking of the ramifications of this celebration.
I feel lonely surrounded by my friends and family because I know out there someone is sitting all alone in an apartment watching television as that ball drops. Someone is in a nursing home who is alone or in a hospital bed. Someone is walking a beat, cleaning an office, or cooking other people’s food. Thinking about them reminds me of Paul McCartney singing that line from the exquisite “Eleanor Rigby” – “All the lonely people/Where do they all belong?”
There is no answer for this question. In some ways it is a rhetorical one, but it can be seen also as one that is answered by saying “Nowhere.” There are so many people who don’t belong anywhere.
The homeless fellow shivering in the cold doesn’t have a place to belong to unless it’s a homeless shelter where he doesn’t want to go. Magnify that by millions of people all over the world who don’t belong to anything or anyone. They exist on the periphery of life and when they are gone no one is there to shed a tear, just as Eleanor Rigby died and “Nobody came” to her funeral.
This is why New Year’s Eve is a lonely night for me. Perhaps I am not alone but I am anyway. No one else is in my thoughts; no one else feels what I feel. The same truth applies to everyone reading this or not reading it. We are in essence alone – just as we come into this world and go out of it. No one comes along for the ride in either direction.
I do not want to seem morbid because I will be with my family and friends this evening, and I will countdown with them, hug and kiss them all, and even shout “Happy New Year!” But, in my heart and mind, I will be thinking of all those people out there who are not as fortunate as I am and in essence feel that loneliness deeply.
I hope people reading this will reach out to someone whom they know will be alone tonight. It may be someone next door, across the street, or far away in another city, state, or country. If you can’t be with them personally, call, text, use Skype or FaceTime, and try to brighten that person’s life a little bit. If they don’t have any place to go and it is possible, invite them to the party. I know someone who will be alone tonight and that is what I am going to do.
So, by all means, wish people a happy new year, toast to everyone’s health and your own, and try to enjoy the evening. Embrace 2019 fully, but don’t forget the lonely people because they are out there and we can all make a difference.