Do you remember the guy (in my case) from college who always hung around your room? For me, his name was Nick. Nick just appeared during the day and made himself comfortable on my cheap, thinly padded futon. He played video games while I went to class (did he go to class?) and when I came back to my room, he’d still be there. He came and went as he pleased and there was no specific reason for his dropping in. He liked my stash of snacks (still to this day I must always have a bag of pretzels in the house) and he was attuned to my roommate’s good selection of DVDs, especially Golden Eye on Nintendo 64.  Sometimes we’d talk about what was being served for lunch in the cafeteria. Or about an upcoming midterm. Other times we just “shot the breeze.”

Sadly, we don’t seem to have time for the “Nicks” of our lives anymore. We’ve missed out on that holy art of simply hanging out with friends. Those moments and hours have been squeezed out of our lives. Because we now live and work and play in world of agendas, calendar planners and formal parties.

In a recent New York Times article titled “The Quiet Catastrophe Brewing in our Social Lives,” author Sheila Liming suggest that perhaps at the core of crisis on loneliness is our inability to simply “hang out.” Liming, an author and college professor writes:

“People struggling to hang out, or else voicing concern and anxiety about how to hang out.” I, too, see a crisis brewing, among not only people my age but among the peers of my teenage children and the college students I teach. Pushed further into isolation by the pandemic, we’re all losing the ability to engage in what I view as the pinnacle of human interaction: Sitting around with friends and talking s-h-i-t.”

Dear friends, what would it look like in your life if we rediscovered the power of simply hanging out with friends? A few weeks ago, I was on Zoom call with my mentee through one of our mission partners at the Church, Yonkers Partners in Education. We’ll call him Dave. During our meeting Dave asked me, “Matt, how do you hang out with friends?” I was stunned, shocked and saddened. A senior in High School, Dave honestly didn’t know what it was like to simply be in community with others. To hang out with friends. 

Now I’m not trying to be the “old man/ get- off- my- lawn” Minister and I realize long gone are the days when kids simply gathered at the neighborhood lot and just played, where the bushes were out of bounds, where there weren’t refs and leagues and jerseys and overpriced monogrammed bags for every activity. But in 2023, how about we rediscover the power of unorganized, impromptu, social gatherings? Events with no blazers required and occasions where Charcuterie boards are optional. Don’t send the planner invite. Just go hang out with friends. Like we did when we were young. 

The Catholic social activist Dorothy Day ends her memoir “The Long Loneliness” with a beautiful and powerful line: “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” Could it really be that simple? As we transition to summer rhythms and routines, I’d like to invite you to find that love through community by simply hanging out with friends. And I think I still have Golden Eye in you’re interested.

Grace & Peace,