A friend of mine shared the following with me. With her permission (and with some details scrambled for privacy) I share it with you; I thought her insights into the practical reality and consequences of being single in the Church are profound.
“Blindness separates you from things. Deafness separates you from people.”
This quote from Helen Keller was used today in a presentation. She discussed how she was routinely left out of hall conversations such as someone’s birthday or new car purchase or even the group casually brewing up lunch plans. She is deaf. People naturally don’t think about her inability to overhear their side conversations and office life moves subtly forward without her. She has to push her way into the stream of the hearing people around her.
Recently I’ve been heavily involved in a new convert family. I’ve helped [her children with their various church activities]. During the last 8 weeks, I’ve been carried along in a stream of hearing people around me. As a single, you don’t get included in the hall conversations naturally. In a short time, I know several people’s vacation plans, an adoption plan, a financial crisis, not only of the people involved with scouts, in YW, but the things they tell me about other YW leaders or parents, other scout leaders or parents.
Blindness separates you from things. Being single in an LDS culture separates you from people. Or at least makes it vastly difficult to stay marginally included.
So I took good notes from my friend today and am pondering how to best use what I learned.
Previously I thought the marginalization was primarily a function of not having time to socialize formally. It think now it’s more a function of not hearing the hall conversations that occur around children and the the numerous functions that includes.
It also reminds me of the smoker’s club at work. A year ago, we had a senior executive who smoked like a chimney and several people took it up in order to hang out at the smoking information club. It benefited several people career wise but probably did nothing for their lungs.
I don’t plan on smoking or taking up children just to hang out with the cool kids but I am vastly surprised at what a simple difference it makes in my connection with the ward members.
Julie’s comment on this: I think my friend nails it in this reflection: most of our socializing is ad hoc and much of it occurs around children’s activities (church activities, schooling, sports, playgroups, etc.). Singles are then not (usually) deliberately marginalized but just not normally where the action is. In some ways, this is a tougher problem to solve than intentional exclusion: we can’t just nag the married people to include the singles. But it does suggest some solutions, such as giving singles callings with youth. And I’ve had some single friends who have chosen to attend my children’s activities (musicals and the like)–that might be another solution. And perhaps social media is a way to become more aware of the daily drama of life in your ward.