Lusaka, Zambia was our final destination. Since it was our first time outside the United States the few days spent in London, Paris, Rome and now Athens had left our bodies confused by time changes, our minds exhausted by currency transactions, and our hearts longing for the good old USA.
For some unexplained reason our flight from Athens to Lusaka was delayed. Our planeload of anxious passengers was herded into a small holding room in the Athens airport to await further instructions.
My wife and I held hands and spoke quietly to our two toddler children as we wondered what the delay was all about. Even if some of the passengers knew what was going on, how could we find out? We didn’t speak Greek or Italian, or any of the other European languages. Heck, we could hardly understand the British people when we were in London. We acted brave, but we were afraid because we were in a strange land and we were alone.
Unexpectedly, we heard the handsome couple sitting across from us speak to each other and to their two children in English, but not just any old kind of English, it was American English! Like us, they had no strange accent such as we heard in England, nor were they hard to understand like the French, nor were they unable to speak The World’s Language like many of the people we had met trying to find our way to the Vatican in Rome.
They spoke American English; and for us poor, lost, tired sojourners, there was no sweeter sound. Without hesitation we introduced ourselves and were happy to discover that this nice couple and their two middle-school aged children were on their way to the same place we were – Lusaka, Zambia.
Suddenly we were no longer alone; we had friends, people like us. People who looked like us, talked like us, and even shared a concern for their immediate future just like us.
With great ease, we opened our lives to each other. We shared our fears about the unknown reasons for our flight delay, we talked of those we left behind and wondered about the new people we were about to meet in the heart of Africa and Zambia’s capital city. We learned about each other’s family, profession and each other’s interests without wondering about how these newly-met acquaintances would use the information that was shared.
We were quick to open the doors of our lives and let these strangers in because we were alone and wanted someone to help us abate the loneliness. As a result, we created a nearly decade-long friendship that ended only because our friends divorced, one moved to Costa Rica and the other to Oregon.
Our Creator was the first to recognize humankind’s need for friendship when he said, “It is not good for man to be alone,” and he created woman. Good job, God! I hate to quote Barbara Streisand on almost anything, especially in the same paragraph where I quote God, but she was right when she sang, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
But loneliness does not happen only in foreign airports. It also happens in beautiful suburban homes where one can feel isolated in the middle of a busy family of four children and an over-scheduled mate. Whether far away on foreign soil, or right in our own back yard, we need a friend with whom we can share our thoughts and feelings, someone who will calm our fears and joy in our success, someone who will abate our sense of being alone.
The great writer C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”