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Lunch With Loneliness

It was one hundred degrees in September as I sat on the cement bench in the courtyard. I don’t remember ever feeling so alone.  This was one of the first times I recall experiencing such heat, and the direct sunlight was brutal.  I reached into the brown paper sack for the sandwich my mom had made that morning.  Unwrapping the tinfoil and pulling the bread up for a bite…I chewed and stewed.   Anger grew in my mind with a mixture hatred and sadness.  The loneliness pulled the sadness forward and I knew melancholy would be with me for the foreseeable future.


Interesting thing Loneliness.  After you’ve spent a great deal of time with her, she becomes a comfortable guest. 

I was 982 miles from an ally, defender or muse with little opportunity to call for a comforting or assuring word.  Confidence in myself and the future would come in temporary thoughts to be quickly pushed aside by negative visions and expectations. Thirty-nine years removed from this moment, and I can still feel the heat and loneliness like it was happening right now.


This moment, this season in life was difficult, but it would set a path for the remainder of my life.  The immense feeling of despair would drive me to pursue friendship with intention if just to spare one soul from having the same experience.


I’ve told the story of moving from Wheaton, Illinois to Fort Worth, Texas with my family in 1985 in a book, so I will not retell it here.  But it is important to mention the effect the change had on me in order to share with you the great joy of next week.


My wife and I began dating in 1987, and this was the turning point for me in saying goodbye to loneliness and returning to the closeness which can be felt in relationship.  The kinship of a band of brothers, which I had experienced while living in Wheaton would take another eight years. 


A friend from church, David Rutherford was willing to join me on a Memorial Day Weekend adventure to The Lincoln National Forest and The Sacramento Mountains in New Mexico. We camped, hiked, and chatted for hours by the fire. We decided we would have a dude trip every May thereafter, and so we have.


Next week is the thirtieth May Club weekend.  Each year 20 – 40 men converge on mountains, lakes, rivers, and oceans seeking adventure and fraternity for five days.  The numbers grew over the years.  In our thirty-year history over 122 men have participated and about 70 regulars make the trip in a three-year cycle.  Some of us, rarely miss.  To date, I have not missed one of our thirty trips.


The May Club, for me, became an intentional pursuit of comradery and a formula to escape the businesses of life for an opportunity to get to know someone.  The philosopher Plato is attributed with saying, “You can learn more about a man in an hour of play than a year of conversation.” The May Club adventures prove this to be true.


I cannot say whether May Club stirs others the way it stirs me.  I assume it does because so many men return, but few have ever shared they felt the loneliness I felt that afternoon at school sitting alone.  Though, I am confident at some point, most people have.


If it were possible, I would have fireworks and The Rolling Stones in the backyard of our Montana home next week to celebrate the occasion of our 30th trip as it means that much to me.  It will more than likely be Jimmy Buffett on the Bluetooth speaker and a lit cigar or two.  Which is perfect, because my son will there with long time attendees like Darrin, Britt, Cody, Brian, Eric, Andrew, Trevor and over twenty others.


The men of The May Club guided my career, celebrated the birth of my children and grandchildren, helped me burry my father, and took an interest in me in the quiet moments of life.  I have been with them as they lost love, celebrated their children, buried their parents, change jobs, and sipped beer in the quiet moments of life.  The joy of it all and the need to no longer worry about Loneliness as she stands waiting behind me for a momentary return make it worth a big party. 


So let the record show in the smallness of my words the immense gratitude I have for these men.  And also, how grateful I am for the cruel season of loneliness in my life that gave birth to building a fraternity based on nothing other than a desire for friendship. 


It is easy be lonely while surrounded by hundreds.  If Loneliness is sitting next to you, invite her closer and listen to what she must teach you about yourself and life for however long is necessary.  Then, open your eyes to those strangers around you and invite them on an adventure.  Only a few will say yes, but those few will change your life. 


Thanks for your friendship. 


With Affection,




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