I met Zack on a crowded street when I was living in England. He was from Sierra Leone and didn’t have any friends or family in the UK. His behavior was pretty eccentric (okay, crazy), and people generally steered clear of him. He was really lonely. After I befriended him, he started to “fancy” me, as the English say. Probably just because I was someone who paid attention to him. He wrote me a letter that said, “You make me believe the verse in the Bible that says, It’s not good for man to be alone.” Cheesy line, yes. But a true statement. I think there is an innate human need to be acknowledged, accepted, and loved.
I could probably write a whole blog about Zack. He was a pretty unique character, but he shared something with a lot of people: the phenomenon of being lonely in a crowd. With today being Valentine’s Day, I wanted to focus on showing love to people like that, who might otherwise feel an amplified loneliness.
I’ve been thinking especially about people who have loved and lost. People who have built their lives with someone– corrected homework, paid bills, planted gardens… all the little things that compose the tapestry of a marriage and family– who are left behind while their spouse moves on. I can’t even imagine what a void must be left for them to deal with.
As long as I’m referencing Bible verses, there’s also that one about not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. In terms of visiting someone who is lonely, the experience was my payoff and I hesitate to write about it for two reasons. One, it looks a little like I’m patting myself on the back and setting myself up as some kind of shining beacon of service. And two, I don’t view any of these people as a charity project. I have a lot of respect for each of them and their strength. I am writing this to keep my commitment to myself to blog weekly.
So, with that disclaimer out of the way, today was a really happy and fulfilling day for me. It started early in the morning. I drove to my parents’ house (about 45 minutes away) to surprise them with flowers and breakfast. My dad has Alzheimer’s disease and is one of the best, most wonderfully sweet men you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. My mom looks after him and is a woman I love and admire very much. I don’t visit as often as I should, though. It’s painful for me to see what they are going through with this disease – Mom has to do so much of it on her own. I wanted to start the day with expressing love to two of the people I care most about in this world.
They had an earlier church meeting than usual, so I was lucky to catch them before they headed out the door. (My mom knows me too well, though. She asked innocently, Are we going to be appearing in your blog? Sheesh. Maybe I really need to make an effort to get over there more.) After pumpkin waffles, fresh fruit, and scrambled eggs, they had to go. But it was really great to spend a little time with them.
Staying with a focus on my family, I came home and wrote some letters to my aunts and uncles who have been widowed. They’ll get them after the holiday, but hopefully it will be a nice sentiment to know that someone was thinking about them.
I called our ward relief society president (the woman in charge of our congregation’s women’s organization) to see if there were women who might benefit from a visit today. After going to church, I made some calls to the ones I thought would be best to see.
I took with me some beautiful and fragrant hyacinth bulbs, wrapped in vibrantly colored paper, that I purchased yesterday. I won’t go into all of the details of the visits, but these women amazed me. Each of them were widows, one as recently as a month or so ago. They all had major health problems from being wheelchair-bound to congestive heart failure to cancer. They are all strong and feisty women, which is one reason I love them, but they are going through major challenges right now. I loved the chance to sit with them, both on the phone and in person.
Each of them had the type of wisdom that can only come through experience. They were so full of faith and I loved hearing their stories. Mostly, I loved the chance to feel like I was able to share some love with them.
It really isn’t good for man– or woman– to be alone. And this Valentine’s Day, it was very, very good to be with so many wonderful people.