The next morning, I clutched the box of cards to my chest as I entered the classroom. Along the bottom of the chalkboard were taped brown paper lunch bags, one for each kid, our names written on them in red marker by our teacher. I followed my classmates along the line, dropping in cards that my mother had helped me complete. When I came to Maggie Argo’s bag, I froze. She had drawn a red heart on the front. The sight of this vulnerable-looking, hand-crayoned heart somehow brought into my spirit an unfathomable yet profound sense of…of responsibility.

In that terrible moment, all my confidence left me. I wasn’t at all sure I could go through with it. I had written more than just the perfunctory salutations. Suddenly, horrible images flashed through my mind: What if Maggie Argo were to read my intimate message out loud…what if all the other kids laughed at me? Or, even worse…what if she were to be embarrassed? My own reputation was expendable. Hers was not.

 

My shaking love note hovered over her open bag like a hand grenade. I closed my eyes, took a breath, and let love lead. Risking everything, I let the card drop in.

 

Later, as all the kids laughed and opened their cards, I could barely concentrate. I went through the motions, looking at the names in my cards, but barely seeing them. I kept an eye on Maggie Argo. Sitting several seats behind her, and one row over, I could see the delicate angle of her face silhouetted against the window. The rest of the room full of kids, the noise, the sunlight coming through the window…all of it seemed a dream, everything waiting for one moment, one heartbeat. My life slowed and stilled, and finally came to a breathless halt.

 

And then. Then, just as I had almost decided to run away, to give up on the hope of love and resign myself to the vague loneliness I had felt all my life…just as fear nearly separated me from the endless possibilities of joining hearts with one very special person…just then, Maggie Argo turned slowly in her seat, and looked right at me. And the world was silent.

 

Maggie Argo smiled.

 

Way back then, when I was a little boy still full of wonder, and unafraid to wonder such things, I once asked my grandmother why God made the world, and people along with it.

 

“God made us,” she said gently, “so that He wouldn’t be alone.”

 

Her answer satisfied the innocent boy in me then, and, in a place having little to do with theology, satisfies the boy in me still. Having created man, and knowing it to be good, God quickly decided that it was not good enough. We were never meant to be alone; it doesn’t feel right. Perhaps God didn’t like the feeling either.

 

Maybe this explains, at least a little, why some of us can feel lonely in a room full of people. I have experienced this feeling off and on for as long as I can remember. Now all grown up, I have learned some official-sounding names for this feeling, and I am mostly at peace knowing that I am an addict and have bipolar disorder. By God’s grace I haven’t had a drink or drug in sixteen years, and my depression is mostly under control. I have a wife and two kids who love me, and I love them. There is so much in my life to be thankful for now, because I have known destitution and isolation and an inner emptiness that threatened to kill me. God has been good to me.