MY ELDERLY mother was a sociable soul and loved nothing better than a good chat.
She lived independently until she was 94, and bustled round the village keeping active and ensuring her neighbours were also alive and well.
This could require a peek to check if the front curtains were open or a knock on the door for a cuppa.
Often a quick phone call would suffice.
Some days the social round didn’t happen.
Mum might decide to stay indoors and “scratch around” restlessly for something to do, or gaze out of the window, hoping that someone would pop by or give her a call.
The day would drag, her spirits would sag and her world would shrink.
By 6pm she would reach out and dial my number.
“I just wanted to hear a human voice,” she would say querulously.
We’d have a little chat and usually end up having a laugh.
I confess I was not always as sympathetic as I should have been – I had been listening to human voices all day at work, and craved exactly what my mother couldn’t deal with – silence and solitude.
I have since had a taste of how she felt.
And it isn’t nice.
And it is not just the elderly and vulnerable who experience this sense of isolation at times; sadly, it is becoming an increasingly widespread social problem.
But why is it so important to interact with our fellow human beings?
Many of us lead busy lives, but that should never be an excuse not to connect with another human being, regardless of age.
It also basically comes back to what makes us tick, and understanding the basic desires that help us thrive within our community.
We all have a basic need to connect with another person, whether as a giver or recipient of some attention, a smile, a hug or a kind word.
We all desire to be taken seriously, which means we need to be noticed, accepted, appreciated and valued – perhaps even be remembered.
This is why listeners are so important – when they give you their undivided attention, they reinforce your value as a person.
We need to feel useful, and to have a purpose in life, along with emotional stability and the security of knowing we are accepted and valued in groups we belong to.
We all desire to be loved and to love.
This is something that can bring out the very best in us and foster a generosity of spirit.
We also thrive on unpredictable situations, which can encourage us to perform rewarding acts of kindness and develop our capacity for empathy.
This also gives us added momentum to surprise someone who “just needs to hear a human voice” by giving them a call, dropping by for a chat and listening to what they say.
It’s worth every moment.