A good Chinese friend of mine recently asked me if I ever feel lonely while living in China. I thought about it for a minute. I pondered on my past experiences, what I’ve read on the subject, and the possible path this conversation could go. Therefore, I answered in a way that I’ve learned is one of the best ways to communicate here. Answer the question with a question.
“Of course I feel lonely here sometimes. Doesn’t everyone have a time where they feel lonely wherever they are?”
The response set my friend back. With the thinking process being quite different here, I usually receive a sigh, a move in sitting position, or both. I’ve learned that the signals could be a combination then of “Oh, I hadn’t thought of that before,” or “You really have no idea what you’re talking about,” or a mix. Thankfully, in this circumstance, my friend sat back with a look of the former. When this happens though, I continue to examine the nonverbal gestures that my crossfire opponent is sticking to me. This is one thing that I’ve learned recently. If I don’t understand even the slightest in a discussion, no matter who it is, I watch how the person is trying to communicate and pay attention to the tones (even if Chinese is a tonal language, ha). I don’t think any national knows that this is what goes through my head every time I hop on a bus, take a taxi, walk the block, etc. What are the people here doing? And why? But only surmising is a dangerous thing, so why not chat with the locals of whom I am contemplating?
It is through these numerous occasions that I’ve heard, seen and felt the emptiness and loneliness of people. If you’ve ever picked up heart-to-hearts with random strangers in a country not of your own, then you probably know what I mean. You start to walk through the daily grind and see what it is that has become an escape from life’s problems for them. Taxi drivers prefer to smoke while businessmen tend to crave various wines and liquors. The majority of the rest of the nitty-gritty occupations taken by the rising youthful generation pulls out their (possibly) knockoff smartphones and run their fingers up and down a screen trying to refresh 2-week old fish.
Do I become lonely in China? Sure, but it was in our first two years here that I had to digest the reality of solely relying on our Heavenly Father since most of our support was on the other side of the world. Have I been lonely in the US? Oh yea! Location doesn’t cause loneliness to dissipate. God made Eve because He saw that it was NOT good for Adam to be alone. Am I saying that everyone should marry? No. What I’m saying is that even when one is lonely, no matter where you are (literally or figuratively), there is One who is with you if you count the cost, believe, and confess.