At one of the feeding programs where I serve regularly, a supporting church recently abandoned their support because we served individuals who did not seem to need support. The pastor there observed that some of our guests had shiny shoes, some had cars, and some appeared to own homes.
I have resisted the urge to argue much about this for several months. I’ll leave it to others to make their decisions. I wanted to observe that at this particular place, I am most excited and thankful about some of the shoes that we provided for elderly guests with severe walking problems. One World War II Navy veteran regularly walked backward down our steps and struggled with pain. He was ecstatic to get shoes from us that relieved some pain and provided good arch support. Another woman who suffered severe leg pain was delighted and smiled wide when she got good shoes from us. The experience has made me rethink how much I will pay for shoes–first for my good, and secondly for shoes I might buy for others.
I have thought about the guests who arrive in cars. Most of those who come in cars live in the cars. They struggle to keep up their car/homes.
For those who have homes, there are a variety of responses. Some of our elderly guests and some young families struggle to keep those homes and buy groceries.
But I have most often thought of the poor who come because they are also lonely. I believe Jesus guided us to be with them. It is an important ministry that we may need to expand and add.
Today, I am especially thinking about healing those who are lonely. It has been an important part of my Lenten journey. I hear the call to serve the lonely. They ail. We heal them some by our presence.
Today, I read an article in Time that supports the importance of healing for the lonely. Why Loneliness Matters highlights a paper from Brigham Young University. Time opens its article:
“Loneliness kills. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Brigham Young University researchers who say they are sounding the alarm on what could be the next big public-health issue, on par with obesity and substance abuse.
“The subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26%, according to the new study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Social isolation — or lacking social connection — and living alone were found to be even more devastating to a person’s health than feeling lonely, respectively increasing mortality risk by 29% and 32%.”
I was moved by this statement: “Holt-Lunstad says that maintaining meaningful and close relationships, as well as a “diverse set of social connections” is key. Policy interventions for loneliness may be more difficult to imagine but could range from encouraging doctors to identify at-risk patients to rethinking the way neighborhoods are designed, Holt-Lunstad says.
“People’s response is oftentimes to say, ‘What are you going to do, tell everybody to give someone a hug?’” she says. “But there are many potential ways in which this could be implemented.”
A lesson for me these past years has been to listen. Simply be present and listen!