Loneliness is defined as "being without company, cut off from others, sadness from being alone." Besides affecting us emotionally and mentally, it can also serve as a precursor to health issues. Being alone can be refreshing as there are moments in life in which we all desire solitude- a moment of silence and rest. Loneliness is a universal concept, yet one that is typically unspoken. I can remember being in Athens for a few days on my own, no one to say hello to and no one to engage in conversation with. I found it very depressing, and it made a lasting impression on me. Although surrounded by people, the feeling of isolation and loneliness was blanketing. During a retreat this year, loneliness was the main topic of conversation. In Ikaria we are fortunate, as it is very difficult to be lonely here. EVERYONE is included in social events and holidays. Those who live alone without immediate family nearby will always have neighbors or extended relatives drop by for a visit and/or to offer help. Even going to the gas station can become a social event, as you will always run into someone and have a chat. My belief is that no matter where you live, loneliness does not need to become a way of life for you. Whether it is becoming involved in your church, engaging in community activities, offering your time as a volunteer, or joining a club, there IS a way to meet people who share the same interests as you. We have had guests who made very simple changes in their lifestyles by creating friendships that have truly enriched their mental and physical wellbeing. As the holidays get closer and the feelings of loneliness can be magnified, please don't be deterred from trying... take that leap of faith and see where it leads you!