When I started working in the Four Seasons Hotel, Yorkville in Toronto things could not have been any better. Everyone seemed happy, the customers were mostly wealthy and strutted around the hotel as if they never had a care in the world. The staff were extremely content and the hotel was full of opulence, romance and charm, life really was great, what can I say I was young.
The whole aura of the hotel seemed to ooze the feeling that life was for the living, it was to be enjoyed, indulged and it was to be shared. On one particular day I remember watching an older very senior chef work, Fred always seemed so happy, he would giggle at any given comment passed by a wondering soul drifting through the kitchen, he was everyone’s confidant, friend and was always willing to chip in and help others when he was able.
The hotel used to give cans of drinks to the hot perspiring chefs to help offset the heat in the kitchen keeping them hydrated. Minutes later picking up my can of soda thereby taking a big gulp would give me the shock of my life; it was full of whiskey from the cooking alcohol cabinet. I swallowed the rather large gulp wincing and glancing around to see if anyone was looking, then I very slowly placed the can down obviously knowing that it was not mine and went about my business whistling as if butter would not melt in my mouth.
I then watched from a distance to see whom the culprit was and was astonished to see Fred waltz over to claim his soda, taking a few big mouthfuls, finishing the whole contents of the can, squeezing it between his tightly grasped hand and throwing the empty can into the kitchen waste bin. I was gob smacked to say the least, no wonder he always looked so happy I thought.
A few weeks later I saw him slip and fall in the kitchen laughing out loud as others helped him to his feet. The next day Fred did not show up to work and thinking he had a cold or some other minor ailment we all left him alone to recover in peace. When he did not show up the next day alarms bells sounded, the Executive Chef went to visit him only to find him dead and alone in his apartment.
A couple of days after that the boss went to his funeral returning to work only to announce that he had gone to Fred’s funeral and noting that just he and the vicar alone had lowered Fred into his grave, there was not a single other friend or family member there to say goodbye to a person that seemed to have the world at his feet.
On hearing this, my young, innocent and naïve heart warming thought process to life in general was instantly destroyed. I was struggling to comprehend how such a popular person, who was loved, respected and admired at work, would live such a lonely private existence.
Years later I would fall in love and would be the envy of most men I knew. I dedicated my life and soul to my new partner and someone slowly but surely over the 3 years of dating would lose contact with my friends as I became deeper and deeper involved. Then came the big day and we were married with the subsequent travelling around the world together and ending up in Hong Kong where we were extremely happy…that is for about 9 months and then it was over and my make believe life came crashing down. My trophy wife was gone, so were my friends and the only stick I had to lean on was my career. I worked 16 hours a day to take my mind off my downfall only to return to my small, soulless, very quiet and lonely hotel room. I had managed to single handedly place myself in the unthinkable position of having had so many friends over the years and had somehow lost them all, the worst possible nightmare had come true, I had become Fred.
Loneliness can happen to anyone and we are all five minutes away from being in the position of talking to ourselves if we do not manage situations well.
In the hotel business I have met many and I mean many rich and famous people whom love to sit down and talk to you due to the fact that it is after hours and because they have no one else. They have fame, fortune, they have people chasing them for autographs, business deals, money or even just association, but very sadly not for love or friendship. When all the dust has cleared and the hangers on, cronies and groupies have gone home to their families and loved ones, they are truly alone and lonely.
There are billions of people on our planet and the incomprehensible reality that some people are torn apart by loneliness is astonishing. I was lucky as I eventually rebounded to meet my soul mate, I have 3 beautiful girls whom I truly believe love me and I know that I unconditionally love them in return.
Most of us hope and pray that when we do eventually pass on, we do so surrounded by our soul mate, our children and our grand children whilst lying in our warm bed.
Unfortunately there are many people that we all know and see every day whom are not so fortunate. They have suffered through terrible circumstances and for whatever reason have not rebounded and are living a life of desperate silence without friends or family.
Let’s make a pact together today that if we know someone who appears to be lonely, that we give them a call or even knock on their door to say hello. We can invite them for a coffee, drop off a baked cake to their home, shake their hand or simply make them feel special by remembering their name.
We CAN help to improve someone’s life and if we are able to do it for just one person we will feel good about ourselves whilst assisting another lonely soul to have a better quality of life.
Together, we can make a difference, I know it.