So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified (Romans 15:7 NLT).

Larry died of natural causes the coroner suggested. I balked at the suggestion, because Larry was only 51 years old. Now for some of you, that may seem old, but I'm 52 — dying of natural causes at 51 didn't seem quite right. But the longer I read the article about Larry's passing, I realized the "natural causes" were not what we usually mean when someone "dies of natural causes."

Larry's remains were recently found in his house in a skeletal, mummified condition. No one had seen him since Hurricane Rita that had devastated Beaumont, Texas, nearly 18 months ago. The body was found on top of the bed, just like he had gone in to take a nap and never awakened. They are not sure if Larry expired shortly before the hurricane's arrival or shortly afterward. His house had not been severely damaged, so no one had actually gone inside to check on him and most folks just felt he had left before the approaching hurricane and never returned. A prospective buyer for the house found Larry's body. The house was put up for auction because of unpaid taxes.

Sadly, no one had really missed Larry. Although he had family in the city, he didn't want to see them. His neighbors made assumptions about his absence. Who knows, if someone had been more aware of his status, he might have been found before he died!

Unfortunately we live in a time when we hardly know any of our neighbors anymore. This is true whether we are talking about the neighborhood where we live or the "neighborhood" where we usually sit when we attend church. While we face an epidemic of loneliness in the many developed countries in the world — and the U.S. seems to be the worst — most folks are waiting for someone else to reach out and include them. Rather than risking rejection, or interfering, or involvement, most of us go about our routines and remain relatively anonymous to the folks around us.

While Larry's death is an extreme example, his death should shock us into a realization that there are lonely people all around us — maybe even within us — who need someone to reach out and simply include them. So why don't we?

So why don't we?
I'm going to challenge you to do just that. Look around your neighborhood and your church, and find people who seem a bit lonely or isolated. Intentionally include them. Encourage folks at your church or within your group of friends to begin to call on one elderly person per week to just check on that person and see how he or she is doing. Change the neighborhood where you sit at church at least once per month and sit by someone who seems to be alone and find out about that person. Offer to help carry the boxes or assist someone older who needs help with groceries, the garbage can, or other tasks.

What holds you back from reaching out to someone else? What makes it hard to help touch the heart of someone who seems to be alone that you regularly see each week? Why have we become such an isolate culture, as we grow more supposedly "civilized and high tech"?

I'd love to hear your take on this and what we can do to make it better. Let me know on my blog, I'd love to hear from you. You can find today's discussion at this address: