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How Star Maureen O’Sullivan’s Loneliness on Christmas Inspired Her to Search for God

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How Star Maureen O’Sullivan’s Loneliness on Christmas Inspired Her to Search for God

By Movieguide® Contributor

Maureen O’Sullivan, who starred as Jane in the classic TARZAN movies, reflected on loneliness and how to fight it in a 1965 essay. 

O’Sullivan remembered her first Christmas in America, where she had come to star in movies. She was just 18 years old, and missing her family in Ireland. 

“I thought of my mother far away in Ireland,” the actress wrote. “As a widow, her own advice about loneliness had always been ‘contact someone.’ She meant really contact, to learn as much as possible about that person, to understand, to help. ‘Stretch a hand to one unfriended and thy loneliness is ended.’”

O’Sullivan noted that she was shyer than her mother, and that reaching out to others was more difficult for her. However, the lesson her mother taught her helped her in later years. 

During WWII, O’Sullivan’s husband John served in the Navy. The actress tried staying busy, volunteering at a local hospital, but was still lonely and missing her husband. While thinking about her problem, O’Sullivan made a breakthrough. 

“A philosopher once wrote, ‘He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.’ Aware that I did indeed have a ‘why’—John’s return —I now knew that I could and would endure the ‘how’—loneliness,” she wrote. 

She continued, “This loneliness, I said, is my own special, personal, private participation in the war. I was able to put my loneliness in perspective when I was able to say, ‘I will endure it. John will come home.’ And he did.”

O’Sullivan faced that loneliness again after her husband’s death, and again reflected on how merely filling her days with activities isn’t always enough to fight those feelings. 

“Most of us, I fear, do not wish to face the fact that human beings are lonely creatures. We have been lonely always; we will be always. I am not being flippant when I say that the one area in which we are not alone is our loneliness,” the actress explained. 

“Everywhere I go I find people who are lonely and for whom there seems to be no relief or answer. Certainly as a woman I recognize that there is a restlessness in me that is not satisfied by human contact or by a full schedule,” she continued. “It has been said that loneliness is a searching for God. Centuries ago, St. Augustine wrote, ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, and restless are our hearts until they rest in Thee.’

O’Sullivan concluded, “Yes, we are born searching and restless and only when we can admit the hard fact that we are lonely and will remain so is there hope for some tranquility and receptivity to life. It is then that we can begin to appreciate the world that God created for us to accept and use, not deny.”