"I get to work with you today!" she said, big brown eyes sparkling and a wide grin on her face.
"I know!" I gave her a big hug. I worked in a small classroom, teaching creative writing, but was taking over another lesson with this particular student.
"But won't my other teacher be lonely? She won't have anyone to work with since the other two are sick." Her smile changed to concern.
"Mrs. Crawford. has been really busy today, and it will be nice for her to have some time alone." She pondered this for a moment. "There's a difference, you see, between being lonely and being alone."
Head tilted to one side in puzzlement she asked, "How are they different?"
I explained that being lonely is when you feel you have no one to turn to, when your heart is alone. And that sometimes you can feel lonely in the middle of a lot of people. "Do you sometimes have disagreements with your friends and they don't want to talk to you, and then you feel sad?"
"Yes. Sometimes they whisper about me and then they won't play with me. That makes me feel lonely." Her brow furrowed into little 8-year-old lines.
"Loneliness makes you feel sad," I continued, "But being alone....sometimes that can be a very nice thing! It gives you a chance to do things that you enjoy, like reading or drawing and spending time with just yourself."
She smiled in understanding....and I began to think a lot about being "alone".Aloneness allows time for dreaming, for trying new things in the absence of watchful eyes. It's discovery on your own terms and looking at the world through your own glasses.It's enjoying moments of pure bliss and taking in everything around us. It's breathing in the very life of Mother Nature, running through tall grass and wheatfields and listening to raindrops on top of a sheltering umbrella.
It's quiet time of reflection and quiet prayer where we find strength and solace in God's tender grace and loving hands.
It's making something out of nothing, filling space with our own creations and making our corner of the world sparkle and sing.
It's growing and being and becoming who we are. By spending time with ourselves....by being "alone", we are able to find that place inside where only we reside. We are able to fine tune our hearts so that when we do come back together, we can give from that reserve and touch another soul. Once we have discovered how to be alone - and how to do it well - we can share what we've learned so that neither we, nor those we love, ever have to be lonely.