“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.  Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish…Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.  May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, Lord, is in you.” – Psalm 25:16-21 

Written by Rev. Brandon Durán

When Shoji Morimoto’s boss scolded him for doing nothing, Shoji heard a business opportunity.  In 2018, Shoji started a Twitter account with the name “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man”.  He offered his effortless companionship to anyone in need.  It turns out, there are people in need.

Over the last four years, over 4,000 people have hired Shoji as a companion who does nothing.  Shoji charges approximately $70 to exist with others.  He does not help clean or do laundry.  He does not initiate conversation although he will respond to simple small talk.  Some people hire him in order to have a plus-one at an event.  Some want to go see a movie or an exhibit but don’t want to go alone.  Some want someone to sit at the table with them while they eat or enjoy coffee.

When asked why they hired Shoji, one client said that he was a companion without judgement and without pressure.  There were no social expectations with him and no strings attached.  He also helped them feel less alone.

Shoji tells the story of one young man who hired him to meet on the swings after work.  The client felt trapped in a soul-crushing career.  He just needed someone who would listen while briefly enjoying the simple pleasure of a swing set.

Shoji, the “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man”, has tapped into the epidemic of loneliness.  His straightforward business model is built on the reality that while the world’s population climbs, we seem to feel more alone than ever before.  Shoji has noticed that the desire to escape loneliness is universally shared.  In an interview, Shoji remarked, “What’s amazing is the huge variety of personalities, circumstances, and situations.”

As an inclusive community with a broad embrace, we have an opportunity to address the loneliness in our world.  The extravagant welcome we proclaim compels us to facilitate connections within the church.  There is nothing extravagant about a welcome that begins and ends with “Aloha! Welcome, we are glad you’re here.”  That’s a good start, but it needs a level of follow-through to be above and beyond.  I am convinced that when people, particularly visitors, come to church they are looking for a meaningful connection.

Perhaps we as the church can learn something from “Do Nothing Rent-a-Man”.  Perhaps we too can begin by simply being with those who come to church.  We can be with others without judgement, without expectation, and without agenda.  All of us want to know that there is someone who will stand by our side.  All of us want to know that we are not alone.  Loneliness can find its way into everyone’s life, even into the body of Christ.  If we are to keep loneliness at bay then we need to be strong enough to share our needs with one another and bold enough to simply be with one another.