COVID-19 Loneliness HotlineTM

Loneliness has nothing to do with being around people. You can be at a party with 200 people, lots of drinks and loud music and still be incredibly lonely. You can also be totally alone on a beach and not be lonely at all. Loneliness isn’t always about people. It’s about feeling helpless and feeling like you’re not connected to the world in an important way. Eat, sleep, work, over and over again. It’s not enough.

The COVID-19 Loneliness HotlineTM was designed specifically to tackle these kinds of issues. Passion for Life is run by Hendrik Varju, LL.B. He is the person behind the Loneliness Hotline. What are his qualifications? Is he a registered therapist of some kind? A psychologist maybe? Or does he have a degree in counselling? None of the above. Hendrik has a wide variety of skills he brings to the table after close to 30 years of professional work that involved working with people.

Hendrik started his education studying economics and then attended Osgoode Hall Law School where he received his law degree. He practised law for a short time in downtown Toronto, specializing in litigation and contract law. This gave him many skills such as negotiation and mediation, as well as many technical skills. However, not being happy with his career choice, Hendrik then moved onto a second career as a furniture designer/builder and woodworking instructor, through a new business called “Passion for Wood”. He started teaching woodworking around the year 2000 and has taught thousands of woodworkers in his workshop. He has written for woodworking magazines all over the world and produced woodworking courses in a DVD format now sold in 23 countries.

About 7 years after that, Hendrik started a second business to turn his passion for cooking into “Passion for Food”. He grew up with a Mexican mother and always loved to cook with her. So now he threw his energy into this new endeavour to teach others the art of cooking, specializing in both Mexican and Hungarian food (his father was Hungarian). He has also taught cooking to thousands of people and he is also a cookbook author. What does any of this have to do with COVID-19 and the Loneliness Hotline?

One of the things Hendrik soon realized, as he began to teach both woodworking and cooking, is that he is a natural born teacher. He has a special knack for explaining difficult subjects in simple terms. Effective teaching involves a bunch of skills aside from a solid knowledge of the subject matter. A good teacher also needs to have patience, wisdom and a desire to help people. However, Hendrik has another special skill that not every teacher has. He has a special gift that makes people naturally trust him and open up to him. He has a way of getting complete strangers to reveal the most intimate details of their lives. Not many teachers can do this. It takes immense trust to make it happen and a certain way of showing interest in that person’s life.

After teaching woodworking and cooking, in total, for over 20 years, Hendrik noticed that his students were opening up to him about the strangest things. Even though they were supposed to be learning about woodworking or cooking, they started to tell him about their difficult marriages, issues with their children, difficult childhoods – the kinds of things normally told only to their closest friends or even to a therapist. Why did students open up to him about these personal details?

It even goes beyond that. Hendrik can go into a grocery store and start up a brief conversation with a complete stranger regarding something totally benign, like how to pick a good avocado. And within five or ten minutes, Hendrik knows that the woman has been divorced twice, has one child from the first marriage and two from the second, she’s an accountant, her mother lives in a long term care home in a certain city, she drives a Nissan and her cleaning lady just quit and left her in the lurch! It’s not normal to obtain all of this information from a complete stranger in five minutes while standing in a grocery store. Why is this happening?

The truth is that Hendrik has a special gift for asking the right questions. He can ask the most personal question to a stranger and they will not think he is being nosy or asking something inappropriate. Why can he get away with this? People inherently trust him instantly even though they just met him. Interestingly, he can achieve the same level of trust even just in the written word, not necessarily even needing to use his voice or facial expressions. It’s very hard to explain.

Hendrik Varju’s COVID-19 Loneliness HotlineTM is a way for you to talk to someone at a very deep level about anything you wish without worrying about confidentiality or being judged. Why would you wish to talk to a stranger instead of a close personal friend or family member? Well, firstly, anyone who knows you will always judge you, whether they actual mean to or not. They have “skin in the game”, so to speak. Your decisions might affect their life or the lives of other people they know. So any advice they give might be biased in a certain way. What you need is a person who will listen and give you a new way of looking at your struggles without being biased about the path you choose.

Secondly, not every friend or family member is skilled in analyzing difficult subjects. Some people have a rather shallow existence, never really delving deeply into feelings and emotions. So just because you have a good friend who likes to go shopping with you doesn’t mean that he or she is going to give valuable advice about your deepest secrets.

Thirdly, some people don’t even have any close family or friends at all. You might have a few very superficial friendships, some coworkers and then maybe a few family members you don’t even get along with! Family does not always mean a close friend, just as your own spouse might not be close enough to you, emotionally, to help you.