Some of the most hurtful words I ever heard were, “I don’t need anymore friends. I have my family and close friends I’ve known since childhood.” Those words weren’t directed at me personally. They were a response to a “sharing” question at a Lenten study class at my parish. Earlier that same week I heard similar words in the locker room of the gym. “At my age I don’t have the time or energy to make friends. My circle is complete.” No, I’m not making this up. I actually heard these words with my own ears. Worse, they came at a time when I felt most lonely. I had joined the gym and the study in order to make friends.
There are many lonely people in the world. Many spend their time on social networks. Others delve into their work. Still others just give up and sit alone in their house. This is especially true of the elderly, with whom I always make an effort to sit with at parish picnics and at mass. It is really up to us to open our lives and sometimes homes to others. My neighbor taught me this. She started calling to invite me to lunch once in a while. She even invited my husband and I to her home when she and her husband got together with their friends. She didn’t have to do that. Her circle was complete. By the way, she wasn’t Catholic. She didn’t belong to any church.
What would have happened if Jesus had waved off the people crowding around Him at His own home? What if He had yelled at the people who were putting a hole in His roof to let down a paralytic? He would never have ever done that, of course. He never sinned.
One of the nicest things that ever happened to me was when a parish employee invited me to join a scripture study when I arrived at a new place half a country away from where I had lived for fifteen years. My schedule at the time precluded that but I was warmed by the gesture. Our family joined that parish.
On behalf of the lonely I request that you please smile, say hello and chat even if for a short conversation, invite, and assist when necessary. If you are in the position to be hospitable at least do that. Jesus was obviously hospitable. We don’t have to befriend everyone who is lonely but we can do a little bit. If everyone did a little bit the body of Christ would grow and be filled with joy. Isn’t that what evangelization is all about?
Picture by Arief Kahman Saan (Ezagren), July 16, 2011. Wikimedia Commons. Author does not necessarily endorse this post or blog.