Alone and Loneliness are Two Separate Words


Dear Reader:

Since I live alone I have had several well-intentioned folks, over the years, ask me if I were not lonely living alone or afraid. I smile, shake my head, and reply “Neither…for most of the time I love my “alone” time and when I have had enough then I socialize with friends/family to my heart’s content before the “alone” time calls me back.

As for being afraid…I hardly give it a second thought…I do avoid watching scary or horror movies by myself…don’t want to plant any seeds there…but besides that…I feel as perfectly secure as anyone else on any given night or day. There are always so many activities I am involved in and/or planning that it leaves little room for scary thoughts.

Last Sunday as the congregation acknowledged the Epiphany, its meaning and stories of the Magi, the Wise Men…I thought about the illustrations or mental images we picture while singing “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”

01 1From my childhood Bible story book the picture (that still lingers in my mind) consisted of three men on camels traveling across a seemingly endless desert, with only one large bright star to guide them.

I always thought it was a lonely-looking picture. Three men and three camels all alone in a vast, dark, desert. Of course, today, I realize that they were never alone…God rode with them showing them the way to His Son’s place of birth.

The other day I came across a fascinating interview ( between one interviewer (Victor Amela) and Moussa Ago Assarid, the eldest child (of 13) growing up in a nomadic Touareg family on the Sahara Desert.

He was born in northern Mali…and moved to France in 1999 to study Management at the University of Montpellier. His responses to questions about desert living and loneliness supported my idea that being alone and loneliness are not symbiotic. In fact, the happiness and serenity found in his childhood left him longing for that period in his life over the crowded, busyness of “modern civilization”  in France. His descriptions of his life will leave many of us longing for that simplified life in all its beauty.

(For the sake of reducing Moussa’s long name….MAA will be used to identify his responses.)

(MAA): I don’t know my age. I was born in the Sahara desert, with no papers. I was born in a nomadic camp of Touaregs, between Timbuktu and Gao, in the north of Mali.

J: What do they do for a living?
MAA: We shepherd camels, goats, sheep, cows and donkeys in a kingdom of infinite and of silence…

J: Is the desert really so silent?
(MAA): If you are on your own in that silence you hear your heart beat. There is no better place to meet yourself.

J: What memories do you have of your childhood in the desert?
MAA: I wake up with the Sun. The goats of my father are there. They give us milk and meat, and we take them were there is water and grass. My great-grandfather did it, and my grandfather, and my father, and me. There was nothing else in the world than that, and I was very happy!

J: Really? It doesn’t sound very exciting.

MAA: It is. At the age of seven you can go alone away from the camp, and for this you are taught the important things—to smell the air, to listen, to see carefully, to orient with the Sun and the stars…and to be guided by the camel if you get lost. He will take you where there is water.

J: To know that is valuable, no doubt.

MAA: Everything is simple and profound there. There are very few things, and each one has enormous value.

J: So that world and this one are very different.

MAA: There, every little thing gives happiness. Every touch is valuable. We feel great joy just by touching each other, being together. There, nobody dreams of becoming, because everybody already is.

J: What shocked you most on your first trip to Europe?

MAA: I saw people running in the airport. In the desert you only run if a sandstorm is approaching! It scared me, of course.

J: They were going after their baggage.

MAA: Yes, that was it.

J: What do you dislike the most here?

MAA: Many people here have everything, and it is still not enough for them. They complain. In [the modern world] many people complain all the time! They chain themselves to a bank; many people are anxious to have things, to have possessions. People are in a rush. In the desert there are no traffic jams, and do you know why? Because there nobody is interested in getting ahead of other people! 

J: Tell me about a moment of deep happiness for you in the desert.

MAA: It happens every day, two hours before sunset. The heat decreases, there is still no cold air, and men and animals slowly return to the camp, and their profiles are painted against a sky that is pink, blue, red, yellow, green.

J: That sounds fascinating.

MAA: It’s a magical moment… We all get into the tents and we boil tea. Sitting in silence we listen to the sound of the boiling water… We all are immersed in calmness: with the heartbeats tuned to the rhythm of the boiling water, potta potta potta…

J: How peaceful.

MAA: Yes…here you have watches; there… we have time.


The wisdom, beauty, simplicity, and peace that came from the life of this child growing up in what the modern world would deem “terrible conditions” surprised and delighted me. I even found myself somewhat jealous of that style of living.

So until tomorrow…What looks like a lonely, desolate place to live can provide some of the most satisfying soul-full moments in life. Alone…but not lonely. A place for us to meet ourselves again and re-introduce ourselves to the person deep inside who needs to speak up and loudly proclaim his/her voice…to display his/her soul for everyone to hear and see.

“Today is my favorite day!” Winnie the Pooh

*I went over to Sam and Donna Clark’s house for the first half….and what a time we had! Wonderful munchies and all kinds of fun and laughter….including tweaking our red noses every time Clemson scored or made a third down. It flew….I came home…put my beautiful “Clemson” flowers on the table Donna gave me and settled in for the second half in my pj’s….

IMG_9522IMG_9526 (2)

While we were watching the first half…. pictures came in…too cute…..Mollie and “Tiger” Lachlan and little Rudy dressed in number 1 orange.




We love you Clemson Tigers and never forget we are always “All In” for the pride you  gave us last night and the strength of character you exemplified before thousands of viewers…You were Awesome!

The numbers at the end of the game will soon fade with time from our memories but the respect you WON last night will last a lifetime!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Alone and Loneliness are Two Separate Words

  1. Donna Clark says:

    Last night was great fun!

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jo Dufford says:

    What a beautiful interview with Moussa! To us, his was such a simple, lonely life, but maybe they just understand how to appreciate the things around them. I just loved several of his comments about life on the desert like: “No traffic jams because no one is trying to get ahead of anyone else, and you have watches..we have time.” (what a profound statement.) Yes, you are right there is indeed a difference between being alone and loneliness. Clemson is a class act, and they are winners no matter what the score says. As one reporter said, “We truly had two national champions playing tonight.” (last night). Thank you again for always starting my day with a great message.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Moussa’smessge tuched me too….and really humbled me in its simplistic message of need and want. And yes Clemson was a class act…two champions who fought to the end.


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