I spent some time with my mother-in-law in ICU today at the local hospital. Normally, I would have been at church, but I needed to get an update from her doctor and see Sherran so she knows she’s loved and not forgotten. Her youngest son, my husband, has been sick the last 3 days and unable to go see her. Her oldest son lives a few hours away and came to see her during the week. I thanked the doctor for their excellent care, and he mentioned how blessed Sherran is to have so many people who love and care for her, because many patients don’t have that. I said “Really?” while suddenly filled with sadness. Why don’t they have anyone to visit? Where is their support network? Who are these people? Are they loners and have pushed people away in life? Do their families live too far away or do they not have family? Did they burn bridges with friends or just not know how to build friendships? Who’s going to care for these people?
One of these people was in ICU next door to Sherran’s room. He would occasionally shout out “I have to get out!” He fluxed between being stable- minded and disoriented. A medic team came to transport him to another hospital. While they were preparing him, I overhead the nurse briefing the receiving nurse at the other hospital. (Sherran’s room was across from the nurse station, so we could hear everything going on. I told her it was her very own reality TV show!) The nurse described: “His name is William…he called 911 last night…58 year old male…we could not locate any known family.” Wait, what? No one to call to let them know he’s in the hospital? Who’s going to care for William? Will anyone wonder why he didn’t make it to church or work today? Will he be missed by anyone? Maybe he’s not part of a church, and he may not work weekends. Most importantly, I asked God “Does he know you Lord?” In that moment of realization, I said a silent prayer for him: “Lord, would you please heal William? Will you remember him and give him an opportunity to know you? Please surround him with people who know You, and help him to not feel lonely.”
This prayer did not take a lot of effort – it was praying for him while I was there anyway. This moment made me wonder: “How many Williams are out there who need someone to reach out to them?” “How many Williams have I missed because I’ve been too busy or calloused to do anything?” Ouch. I admit, busyness is the antagonist to outreach. And really, reaching out doesn’t have to be complicated or long. It may be a simple smile (recognition), or a prayer, hug, visit, letter, or companionship. It’s giving moments along the way – in the course of what we are already doing – to make an intentional effort to share life with someone.
“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
What difference would it make to reach out to the Williams in our lives before they are in dire situations? Many of these people suffer with something that no hospital can cure – Loneliness (yes, with a capital L). It looms in the hearts of patients with no visitors, and it also befriends people in the midst of over-busy lives. Loneliness happens when we don’t feel a deep connection with God or people (sometimes both). We can be in the midst of a crowd, even battling Black Friday Christmas sales, and still feel lonely. Notice that it’s a feeling – not necessarily a reality. Feelings are temporary, but to someone in the middle of that feeling, it seems like a permanent state. It can feed depression, and that can take us down a long dark road that not everyone exits.
I wonder if Jesus felt lonely knowing the destiny his father (God) was leading him through. It was a path that only He could do – to take on the sin of all humanity and be hung on a cross and then raised to Heaven to make a way for us to have a relationship with God. He had flesh and experienced feelings and emotions just like we do today. He would also later wonder if God had left him.
About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Perhaps the moment that Mary chose to sit with him in the living room and talk helped to cure some of the loneliness that he may have been feeling. Mary’s sister Martha was upset that Mary was not busy helping her in the kitchen, and Jesus gently impressed on Martha that Mary was choosing what was best for that moment. Sure, the dishes needed cleaning, but that could be done when Jesus was not in the house. This was a moment, an opportunity, to be a friend to Jesus and, ultimately, part of something greater.
The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
On the way home from the hospital, I heard the radio deejay share that when we are in a funk, the best way to break out of it is to do a good deed for someone else, especially for someone we don’t know. This often uplifts the giver more than the receiver. Stanford University studies confirm this is true. There’s a lot of needs all around us.
We can’t travel with everyone, or we’ll end up feeling lonely too. However, we can be more aware of who’s around us and look for opportunities to reach out to others. Who’s in your path that you can call, text or invite for coffee? Who could use a kind word or personal prayer? Let’s keep them off the Lonely Road and reach out to those in need.