Living Into Loneliness
Paramedics drove off with my almost-78-year-old neighbor in their vehicle this morning. I found my self ill-prepared. How do I get in touch with her daughter who lives many miles away? Scouring the minds of friends and neighbors, I finally obtained the phone number, made contact with the daughter and found out my neighbor had recently seen the doctor, who had given her a glowing bill of health. He said, however, my neighbor was depressed.
I live in a “neighborly” neighborhood. People wave and say hello and sometimes have conversations if we catch eachother outside for a few minutes—usually as we are going someplace or returning home. My jovial neighbor, now hospitalized, always provided a kind word, encouraging thoughts and taught us through her hard work which was continually evidenced by her perfectly groomed yard.
The event this morning, however, has caused me to think about two things that may be helpful to you as well.
1) Are we ready for emergencies?
Preparing confidently for the future is part of my http://www.familytreequest.com/ goals. Knowing that I have an over 80-year-old neighbor. I could have foreseen the possibility of needing to contact her family members who live out-of-town in case of a health crisis for her. I needed to follow through earlier on the thought to have her daughter’s phone number in my planner.
2) Are we really “connected” to others in a manner that is meaningful?
Since I love her and care about her so much, why was I not aware of her depression? In my case, I now see I was relying on HER to be outside and ready to talk. I will learn from what is now the past, and will make plans to be more mindfully connected and plan a visit or two just because I love her.
Just last night, I listened to the words of Thomas S. Monson, who was speaking about doing something good and helpful for others: He said, “You may lament: I can barely make it through each day, doing all that I need to do. How can I provide service for others? What can I possibly do?” Then he told the story of an eleven-year-old boy who had taken the challenge of finding someone who was having a hard time or was ill or lonely, and then do something for him or her. The little boy said, “I went to a lady’s house and asked her questions and sang her a song. It felt good to visit her. She was happy because she never gets visitors.”
Monson continued, “Reading this particular note reminded me of words penned long ago by Richard L. Evans . . .. Said he: “It is difficult for those who are young to understand the loneliness that comes when life changes from a time of preparation and performance to a time of putting things away. . . . To be so long the center of a home, so much sought after, and then, almost suddenly to be on the sidelines watching the procession pass by—this is living into loneliness. . . . We have to live a long time to learn how empty a room can be that is filled only with furniture. It takes someone . . . beyond mere hired service, beyond institutional care or professional duty, to thaw out the memories of the past and keep them warmly living in the present. . . . We cannot bring them back the morning hours of youth. But we can help them live in the warm glow of a sunset made more beautiful by our thoughtfulness . . . and unfeigned love.” (Richard L. Evans, “Living into Loneliness,” Improvement Era, July 1948, 445.)
Often our “busy”ness gets in the way of our true neighborliness. We cannot be all things to all people—even if it’s our heart’s desire. For this moment, however, we can pause and evaluate what we can do to slow down and take a little time for the lonely and downhearted. Sometimes a smile and kind word is just what someone older and lonely may need. Sometimes WE need to make the first move—consciously, intentionally and with love.
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Note: “Unfeigned love” (as spoken of in the quote by Richard L. Evans) is love that cares for another’s welfare despite any wrongdoing on their part.