Feeling isolated? You’re not alone. Well, actually, you are alone, according to a new poll. The survey shows that 1 in 4 Americans don’t have anyone outside their family with whom they can discuss important matters.

On the one hand you can say: thank God for family; on the other you can say: how depressing. The decline of personal interaction in our country has been going on for many decades. It can be seen in the disappearance of fraternal organizations and the decline in league bowling.

According to the survey, the average American had three close friends in 1985 and now we’re down to two. This sounded right to me, because I happen to have two life-long friends. Although, I was almost down to one when an ice cream truck recently ran over my buddy when he was bicycling.

The question is what has caused this increased isolation? Perhaps it’s because our lives have become busier and we’re working longer hours. At the end of the day, it’s much easier to collapse in the comfort of our homes than venture out to socialize.

These homes contain more entertainment features than before. We can match wits with a computer, chat on the Internet, or watch a movie in our “home theater.” Personal music devices can also be isolating. I have a song on my iPod that says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” And I think: as long as I have these headphones on I don’t really need people.

I think there may be another factor that is causing people to sit in the security of their houses. It’s all this fear mongering by the politicians and the press. People have unrealistic fears about terror attacks, strangers abducting their children and catching bird flu, while they ignore the real dangers in our world ” like ice cream trucks.

We listen to pundits on the car radio stoke our fears about Mexico taking over the US; North Korea blowing us up, and Iran getting the bomb, while ignoring the fact that we’re engaged in one of our most dangerous activities: driving.

It’s possible to feel isolated in Forest Park but at least we have many public gathering places. I’m not just talking bars. The Park offers activities that bring friends together: like the sing-a-long to “Grease;” sports activities for kids and adults and the upcoming 4th of July celebration.

There was no “Park” in Forest Park, until fraternal organizations, like Kiwanis, stepped up to the plate in 1934. They saw that kids needed a safe place to play and the 16-acre gem was carved out of rough prairie land. Thanks to their vision, the Park has become a focal point for friends.

So, let’s get off our butts and make an effort to attend village events and see our friends. If we’re feeling isolated, we may only have ourselves to blame. And to avoid the isolation of a hospital bed, for God’s sake, wear a bike helmet and watch out for ice cream trucks.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.