Ben and Kendra Burson are your typical American couple. They have two kids, Allison, a 15-year-old academic who is well on her way to being valedictorian already, with aspirations to become a nurse and change the world. Then, there is Joseph, an 13-year-old athlete who seemingly gets away with everything, deemed as the king of the Middle School, who lives and breathes football.
The Bursons live in a personable suburban home with a well-kept lawn and a two-car garage that looks identical to all the other homes on their road, but with emerald green siding and an earthy blue roof.
The days always begin the same. Ben and Kendra roll out of bed, make a pot of coffee to get them energized, and begin preparing breakfast for the kids before the bus arrives at 7:20 am. Once Allison and Joseph are out the door, Ben follows not too long after. He gets in his 2010 Honda Civic, and embarks on his 25-minute commute to the factory in which he works from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm busting his tail only with a measly hour lunch break. He’s surrounded by a bunch of rugged, macho men who think all they need in this world is a good paying job, plenty of beer, and women to keep them happy. His boss keeps telling him that a promotion is on the way, but it never comes.
Kendra’s job is not near as physically demanding as her husbands—but it sure is emotionally. Her commute is only 15 minutes down the street to the bank. She tells herself everyday she wants to get out of this job, but Ben reminds her the benefits are too good for her to leave. So she sits there, everyday, from 8:00 to 5:00, dealing with cranky people who could not care less about her personal well-being, but only that their money is properly handled and she isn’t pulling anything behind their backs.
Cranky customers aren’t even the worst part. Management is terrible. She might as well be deemed as chopped liver than a breathing human being. Her co-workers don’t put in near as much work as she does, which drives her type-A personality off the wall. The goal of the day is to crank out numbers, with not the slightest care in the world about her well-being.
The clock ticks by as she slowly waits for 5:00 to arrive.
Once Kendra is finally off work, she goes to pick up her kids. Since it’s the Fall, Allison stays late after school for her academic team meetings, and Joseph is hot and sweaty from his football practice. Allison goes on and on about how ridiculous her teacher was for giving her an A- on an assignment, sparking Joseph to make a very insincere comment about her not being good enough at anything she does. A fight ensues. Kendra grips the steering wheel, her temper rising at every passing second, until she finally bursts and tells them to knock it off. Veins are pulsing.
It’s nearly 5:30 now. The kids rush off to their rooms for their evening hobbies, but Kendra can’t seem to relax. She has dinner to prepare. So she tosses a multitude of thin strands of hardened noodles into boiling water, throws some garlic bread into the oven, and tosses a salad. Spaghetti night—again.
It’s 6:35, and Ben walks in the house, exhausted and short-tempered—as usual. “Spaghetti again?” he chides. Kendra hates his job because he’s never the fun, energized man she married 17 years ago. He tosses his boots off and showers.
7:00. Dinner is ready. All the kids come downstairs, famished, diving in. No deep conversation is had; there’s too much the kids need to see on their iPhones. Ben is too tired to talk anyway, so he resorts to reading through his Fox News app instead. Once dinner is finished, the kids rush back up to their rooms for the rest of the night, continuing to do the very same activities they had already been doing for the whole afternoon. Ben goes back up to his room and watches 2 hours worth of Netflix because he’s quote-on-quote “too tired to do anything else.” Kendra cleans up after dinner and starts the week’s laundry. By the time the chores are done, it’s 9:00. There’s nothing else she wants to do than go to sleep. The next day is just around the corner.
The Bursons do make it a point to go to church every two or three weekends, depending on the demand of academic meets and traveling football leagues. But it’s not something that really gives them fulfillment; it’s something they’ve just kind of always done. This weekend was a little different, though. It’s that time of the year where the church is doing their big small groups push. Ben couldn’t be more indifferent. But Kendra thinks to herself, “Wow, how great it would be to have a consistent community of friends to hang out with… to eat meals together, to support each other, and to grow in our faith together… There are times I just feel so empty… so lonely.…
“Too bad we’re too busy to go.”
• • •
We’re all too familiar with stories like the Bursons. Maybe you know people with a life like that. Maybe you do have a life like that. This is just one of the many examples of people who are living in America’s loneliness epidemic—and it is an injustice.
Our addiction to working and activity keeps us from slowing down long enough to be immersed in any type of community. And this is the characteristic of America’s culture that steps a lifestyle of isolation we’re turning to next.