Life Lessons from Home Alone
by Brian Douglas
The prayers of a young Brian Douglas included many things, but one of the most consistent went a little something like this: “Lord, thank you for the friends that I have. Help me to grow closer to them. And also, Lord, help me to make many more friends.” So maybe I was a little lonely then, but it was a prayer that was answered for me then and many times over in my life.
Just over 30 years ago loneliness became a Christmas franchise with the release of Home Alone, and did it ever strike a chord with the holiday crowd. A modest comedy cost only $18 million to make but earned nearly $500 million at the box office, ranking it No. 2 all time among Christmas films. The youngest son of the McCallister family, Kevin, finds himself wishing his family would all vanish after a fight with his siblings gets him banished to the attic for the evening. That wish is granted when his family accidentally forgets him the next morning, getting somewhere above the Atlantic before realizing he’s not there.
Kevin initially rejoices at his freedom. Many beds are jumped on, and much pizza is consumed. But just like young Brian Douglas, Kevin soon realizes being alone isn’t that great. When most of us think initially of loneliness, we envision Tom Hanks in Cast Away, out on a deserted island. I think Kevin’s brand is more common—alone even though you’re surrounded by a sea of people.
Whether you are genuinely alone right now or have scores of friends, all of us got to experience isolation at some point this year because of the pandemic. Odds are, we’re all looking to reconnect some dormant friend skills this holiday season. Allow me to offer you a few thoughts on how to make that happen . . . and think of them as the opposite of Kevin’s booby traps that he set for the Wet Bandits.
Giving Thanks for the Friends You Have
Start by simply letting your friends know you’re thinking about them, and that you are grateful for their presence in your life. It is so easy to let work, family, and household chores dominate our lives. To keep the friendships you have, you have to make time for them.
One of the most melancholy things about watching your parents age is to see their great friendships change. My hyper-social father often laments how he is less connected to many of his friends, as many of them were slowly pulled into different social circles over time through divorce and remarriage, moving a few towns over, or other life changes. You may not be anywhere close to that point in life, but be aware that it can happen.
Reaching out is the baseline obligation. Social media offers other creative ways to stay in touch. Not a big talker? Texting may be your answer. Ultimately if you want people in your life thinking of you and your best interests, there’s no better way than to be the one taking the first step. The new friends they will inevitably make could be your competition, or they could be your new friends, too.
Two well-known biblical examples of friendships are David and Jonathan and Naomi and Ruth. Jonathan literally gave David the shirt off his back to honor him (1 Samuel 18:3, 4) while Ruth refused to leave Naomi alone after they were both widowed (Ruth 1:16, 17). Jonathan soon saved David from being murdered by Saul (Jonathan’s dad!) while Ruth and Naomi eventually prospered. That type of loyalty and selflessness is the hallmark of deep friendships.
I’ve been lucky enough in life to experience a few great friendships that were so meaningful I honestly didn’t feel I deserved them. In those two Old Testament examples, the key for those deeply connected friendships was sacrifice. Ruth could have left with Naomi’s other children, but she would not. Jonathan could have easily sided with his father King Saul in his jealous rage against David. To ever achieve that level, you have to support your friends: no destination wedding can be too far away to make the journey; no U-Haul can be packed alone; and no kindergarten play can be too terrible to go see. But I think most will agree the reward is well worth the effort, because as Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (NIV). That same friend will be there for you when you need them.
Making New Friends
Because of my choice in careers, our family has moved a lot. Cincinnati is the sixth city we’ve live in the past fifteen years. Our top advice for making new friends is this: Go to church! What are friends but like-minded people who share common interests? And no shared journey is more powerful than the Christian walk.
Not every church is equal in its ability to enable quick connections, but taking advantage of extra classes, small groups, Man Church, ladies’ Bible studies, etc., is the obvious place to start. Perhaps the best introduction is an invite to lunch after the Sunday worship experience. Creating a new network of good-hearted people allows you to plug into the area with an optimistic view. In case you were wondering, Christ’s Church scores an A. We’ve met some wonderful people in our first year here who treat us like old friends, not new.
We just aren’t built to do life alone. While I respect the dedication it would take to be in a monastic order, we are called to be a light to the world. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) calls us to make disciples of all nations. You might as well make some friends along the way. Our accomplishments are best when shared and admired by others.
In the movie Home Alone, Kevin is initially terrified of the sinister old man next door, but he happens to meet the man (at church!) and finds out he’s not all that bad. In fact (spoiler alert!) he saves the day in the end before Kevin is reunited with his family. You probably have more in common with people not like you than you think. Not everyone is open to making new friends, and it stings a little when your effort isn’t reciprocated. The best approach is to cast a wide net. Let this Christmas season be an excuse to do just that.
While writing this blog I reflected on my own advice and learned something from my younger self about the power in that simple prayer I recited so long ago. You are never done praying for friends. I’m not sure you ever reach a limit, ever have enough. Let us all offer up a new prayer going forward—that we would make new friends—and that we would be the best friends we can be to them.
Brian Douglas is a Category Director for Shopper Based Design for P&G Baby Care, designing shelf sets in grocery stores for diapers and wipes. He resides in Mason with his wife, Christy, and daughter, Mary Kate, a sophomore at Elon University.