The Poverty of Loneliness

This past week, our church returned to offering services at the local nursing home and the assisted living facility, which had been suspended since Covid 19 descended upon us. 

The last time I routinely participated in services for care homes was in college.  In the midst of Lent, I confess, it seemed like one more thing on my plate.  As we arrived, the people were gathering, some clearly delighted we were there, others seemingly unaware of what was going on. 

After greeting folks, we began to sing. I offered communion and then we started to sing some more.  One woman appeared to be totally unresponsive to anything going on.  But then she slowly began to pat her leg in time to the music.  Soon after, she began to clap. Then her eyes, closed up to that point, opened, revealing their lovely blue color.

Our efforts there were rewarded as well by the many expressions of gratitude, Music, of course, naturally engages and uplifts people.  But it seemed just seeing fresh faces and knowing people were willing to make time for them, were equally meaningful to them.

I think of how lonely their days must be even with the best of care situations.  I have never forgotten the fellow I met as a young woman, when a church group I was part of, visited a nursing home.  He was speaking of how much he missed his wife.  When I asked how long they had been married, he replied “54 years.”  As a 21 year-old, that sounded like a near-eternity to me. “What a long time!” I exclaimed.  A big tear rolled down his cheek and he said, “Not nearly long enough.”

We were to provide a service. We were instead blessed with the gift of entering into their loneliness and grief and offering a bit of relief for a few moments. 

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  Mother Teresa, who certainly knew something about working in the midst of poverty, is quoted as saying: “The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.”