Shelves and screws and seemingly random pieces of what would eventually become a wooden cabinet covered the living room floor. It was somewhere around step thirty-one that I knew without a doubt: This was a two-person job. Four hands were needed to ensure the boards would be flush against one another, held securely while dozens of nails were carefully hammered into place.
The half-built cabinet sat in the middle of the room for a few days, waiting for a window of time when both my roommate and I could work on it together. A day or two before our schedules aligned, a close friend called to ask a question that momentarily took my breath away.
“This is kind of awkward,” she stammered, “but I have several single friends that I want to love well and I’m just not sure how to do that. I’m worried that if I ask questions related to singleness, I’ll make them feel sad or I’ll say the wrong thing, so I usually don’t ask anything. But I’m realizing that might seem like I don’t even care. And I really do care. How can I love you and other single people well?”
I froze in place for a moment, touched by her kindness. Until that afternoon, I had never been asked that question by a married friend. What she thought might be awkward was incredibly appreciated. I didn’t feel sad; I felt seen.
I paused and then slowly said, “You know how you think of your husband and kids in one hundred small ways throughout the day? Well, regular life reminds me that it’s just me. Not always in a sad or lonely way, but just . . . practically. This morning I wanted a hug, but no one is here. I’ve had a migraine for three days and for a moment wished there was someone to take care of me, or even just help make dinner. I heated leftovers, which is the norm because most recipes aren’t made for one. I walked by the half-built cabinet and wondered how I’d lift/drag/push it against the wall on my own. Each of these were here and then gone, not sad — just the reality of this particular day. I share because I want you to know: Life will remind me that I’m single; you reaching out reminds me I’m not alone.“
I walked back into the living room, phone in my hand as I dodged the random bits and pieces still piled on the floor. We talked a little while longer, thoughtfully asking and honestly answering questions that helped build an even stronger friendship.
A few days later, I snapped a photo right before securing the last two shelves. Our conversation was still fresh on my mind, and I decided to share part of it on Instagram, along with a handful of questions to ask your single friends when you want to love them well but aren’t sure what to say. In over a decade of writing online, it’s my most-saved post. I’m blinking back tears just staring at that sentence because to me, it means precisely one thing: We really and truly care about one another. We may not know what to say, when to say it, or how to best show up for our friends, but our hearts are for one another.
Sometimes it seems like we’re more divided than ever before, but perhaps most of our thoughtful conversations and gently asked questions are spoken in person. After all, the good, hard, beautiful, generous, and kind work of reaching out, listening, and showing up for people often happens away from the screen. It’s a bit quieter, and sometimes it’s uncomfortable and messy, but I see it in hands building a cabinet together, in women saving a list of questions because they want to love their single friends well, in a phone call from a friend who chose to reach out, opening the door to a conversation that brought us closer together.
Being for each other might just be the best gift we can give one another.
At the end of the day — whether happily single, desiring marriage, dating, widowed, divorced, married, or engaged — it’s true of every single one of us: We all just want to be seen, known, wanted and loved.
Months have passed, seasons have changed, and we’ve talked about one thousand other things since. But this morning I walked by the vase of Valentine’s Day flowers I bought myself, the pop of color and life sitting atop the cabinet, and I smiled. Because while it’s true that being single can be incredibly lonely at times, the cabinet is still standing, built with two sets of hands, a reminder that even when it’s just me, I’m not truly alone.
“Better together” is a catchy phrase, a cheesy cliché, and a popular hashtag. But it’s also the truth. From the very beginning of time, the Three-in-One has shown us that community matters. May we live and love like it’s true.
P.S. Dear married friends, all those things you think aren’t a big deal — the invitation to come over for family dinner, the Christmas card in the mail, the random “Just thinking of you!” text — they matter more than you’ll ever know. Your kind questions, your genuine care, and most of all your friendship mean the actual world. Thank you!