Higgins Talks About Loneliness And Community Impact At CCS Luncheon

Ben Higgins, star of the 20th season of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and author of “Alone In Plain Sight,” speaks to the crowd at Combined Community Services’ Love Thy Neighbor luncheon Wednesday at Christ Covenant Church, Winona Lake. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.

WINONA LAKE – If any community can come together to care for those who need it the most, Ben Higgins believes it’s Kosciusko County because it’s where he learned to be compassionate growing up.

Higgins, star of the 20th season of “The Bachelor” and author of “Alone In Plain Sight,” was the featured speaker Wednesday at Combined Community Services’ Love Thy Neighbor luncheon fundraiser.

“So what I want to do today is remind you, encourage you, maybe inspire you to get back out there in the community once again. Because when I talk about Warsaw, Indiana, when I talk about Kosciusko County, I don’t talk about it as this place I once was. I still view this as home. I still view you as the teammates that encourage all of us across the world to continue to go out there and care for those who need it the most,” Higgins said on the stage at Christ’s Covenant Church, Winona Lake. “I learned that from this place. I learned that from you all. I learned that from your peers. I believe this community can do incredible things. I believe you already have and will.”

His book, “Alone In Plain Sight,” is a book on loneliness that he started writing about three years ago and came out Feb. 2, 2021. It references statistics on loneliness and Higgins read some updated statistics Wednesday.

“This is a real situation that we have in the United States today,” he said.

Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 26%. Loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to Harvard, he said. Loneliness and social isolation are associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke. Loneliness with severe depression is associated with early mortality, and loneliness is a risk factor for depression later in life. Loneliness and social isolation put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia. The number of 50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025-26, this compares to around 1.4 million in 2016, a 49% increase in 10 years.

“I share all that because I want to set the tone for what we’re about to talk about. There is a serious issue going on in our world today. I’m sure, and I’m not going to ask you to do this, but I’m sure if I asked you to raise your hand right now, according to these stats, many people in this room, including myself, would say at some point in their life, maybe recently you have experienced deep loneliness. Feeling completely isolated from the world – unknown, unseen. Your value has been in question in your mind,” Higgins said.

As a follow-up question, he said he would ask, “What kind of place does that put you in? Is it a place of chaos, a place of confusion or just maybe a place where you want to reach out to somebody and ask for help?”

He told the dozens of people at the luncheon that they are community makers, the people within the community who have the abilities and maybe the resources to go out and make great change and impact.

“I wrote a book on loneliness because myself, I have suffered deeply from feeling alone. In fact, the tagline of my book … is about me feeling so seen in the world but known by nobody,” Higgins said, noting that reality television “doesn’t really help that.”

Last July, he said he had another breakdown and came back to Warsaw in July, adding that the headlines were a little overblown.

“But I did. I did. I had to come back home. Because I was feeling alone. My values were in question. Who I was, was in question. I didn’t feel seen by anybody yet I was a couple months away from getting married. Now she loves me and cares for me deeply. Those two things are not related. Personally, I was feeling disconnected from the world,” Higgins said.

People in organizations like CCS find those in the community who are hurting the most and ask how they can help, he said.

The first chapter of his book asks “Who are you?” He asked those at the luncheon to think about who they are.

“How do you answer it? Take away your job. Your job can’t be a part of that answer. Take away even your kids and your family, they can’t be a part of that answer. I’m asking you who you are. What makes you, you? What makes you valuable to this world?” Higgins asked.

When he was experiencing his deepest parts of depression, anxiety and loneliness, he said he tried to fill it with everything he could around him.

Higgins said when he was sitting in Winona Lake in July and he felt like the world was falling down around him, he said he had to ask himself then, “Who are you still, Ben? What matters to you? Who do you want to be? How do you want to be remembered? What kind of husband do you want to be? What kind of son do you still want to be? What kind of community person do you want to be? How do you want to have an impact? How do you want to be remembered?”

What stood out to him in that moment was that he wanted to be remembered as someone who gave more than they took.

“If nothing else is said about me for the rest of my life, I just want to be known as somebody that gives more than I take from this world,” Higgins said. “And, again, I learned that from this community.”

He acknowledged that Warsaw and Kosciusko County aren’t perfect and no one thinks that they are. “But I grew up watching with my own eyes from my family and their friends and their peers and my principals and my teachers, people that sacrificed their life so that they can be remembered as somebody that gave more than they took and I want to take that with me for the rest of my life,” Higgins said.

When you start serving other people and ask how you can help others, he said there’s a joy to that.

“I believe it comes from God. Some people in the room might say that’s not the case and that’s fine, too, but I would still encourage you to try it. There’s a joy to service,” Higgins said.

“If you’re somebody sitting out there today who’s feeling like their life is in chaos – one, you’re not alone. You’re not. Two, there’s people that can help because there’s people who have been there before you. And three, maybe the best, the best way to work through that time is to start sharing yourself with others, to start dealing and working in other people’s pain because God does this weird thing when we’re hurting. God does this weird thing when we feel unknown and unseen: He uses that moment, that pain, those stories to help you relate to somebody else in that moment. God does this weird thing of connecting us through our shared pain,” Higgins said.

Pain is a threadline that can connect people, but people hide it so often from each other, he said.

“What would it look like if a group full of people, if a county full of people started to say, ‘Hey, I know you’re hurting right now. I know you have addiction issues. I know you feel completely pushed away from the world, but I still love you and want to be here the same because I’ve been there, too. I’ve felt something similar’?”

After sharing several stories of the people he met while writing his book, Higgins said, “I don’t know of any place in the world that can do more for these situations that I’m speaking about today than Kosciusko County. And I mean that. I believe the people in this room – I’ve learned to look left and right and to ask people, ‘What do you need and how can I help?’ because of you all. Because of the impact you’ve had, because of the legacy you’ve left.”