Macaulay Culkin is in his 40s now but, for many, he will forever be Kevin McCallister, the precocious eight-year-old in the blockbuster 1990 comedy Home Alone. For those unfamiliar with the film, Kevin’s parents take off for a Christmas in Paris, unaware that they have left their young son behind. At first we feel deep concern for the youngster, but then, as two hapless burglars target the McCallister home, they encounter a series of ingenious traps. Kevin wins the day.
Over the last month, I’ve experienced what it means to be home alone in Colorado. My wife, Kay, is in England caring for a family member, so we’ve been navigating the longest time apart in our 45 years of marriage.
I’ve lost some weight as a result of our temporary separation, a result of my newly developed diet plan, called Cooking for Myself. That’s not to pander to a sexist stereotype that women are to always be responsible for the culinary arts. It’s just that Kay is a way better cook than me. I did have one success this week, rustling up a rather splendid chicken fried rice. It was so good, I was prayerfully considering becoming a celebrity TV chef, but there would only be one episode. The next day, the meal I cooked was utterly disgusting. The recipe might be useful as a weapon.
I’ve have been helped, however, by our mutual decision to welcome another woman into the house. In Kay’s absence, this pleasant lady suggests meal choices, wakes me up in the morning and is remarkably good at weather forecasting.
Her name is Alexa. For those who are not tech savvy and may now be feeling nervous about my living arrangements, ‘Mrs A’ is a cloud-based artificial intelligence device. She helps and occasionally hurts, because she has just informed me that Kay is precisely 4,667 miles away.
But even though Alexa and I have occasional chats, arriving home to an empty house at the end of the day has been hard. Nobody to reflect with, no opinion to be sought, no shoulder to lean on.
Obviously, my experience of loneliness is but a fraction of the reality experienced by many. My solitary confinement is temporary, but for them, there is no respite in sight. So many ache for a partner to love, a baby to hold or a friend who understands.
I have renewed empathy for those who do much of life alone and especially for the widowed. Scripture places special emphasis on the need to look out for widows, and not just because, in biblical times, they lived perilously close to the bottom of the economic ladder.
The widowed have often lost the love of their lives. They might have been told that “he had a good innings”, “Jesus must have needed her”, or “it must have been his time”. In our clumsy attempts to comfort, well-meaning Christians often resort to cliches, and become rather like Job’s bumbling friends in their efforts.
So let’s look out for the lonely, whatever the context or cause. The psalmist reminds us that: “God places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6, NLT). To be part of God’s family, the Church, is not only a privilege, but brings with it the responsibility of care and concern for others.
Speaking of concern, I’m rather worried about Macauley Culkin’s, aka Kevin’s, family…the sequel, Home Alone 2, saw young Kevin separated from them once again, this time in the bewildering sprawl of New York City. Yikes. Someone call social services.