I had a dream last night:
I was kidnapped by an elderly couple. They were so notorious about kidnapping people that they were nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde. Then they kidnapped me, and I found out that they are really nice people. I could see that they kidnapped people because they were lonely. When I got the chance to escape, I did. But the next time I saw them, I voluntarily got into their car.
Immediately, I recognized this as a dream about the retirement apartment where I live with Mom (my residence when I’m in the US). It’s an independent living facility, which means that they provide no nursing care. Basically, it’s an apartment complex with a communal dining room and lots of group activities. Because we eat almost all of our meals together, we have developed a group of friends here. Of course, there are some people that we are closer to than others, and there are some who we actively avoid (like the man who put a gift-wrapped tube of KY jelly into Mom’s purse on her birthday).
Loneliness is a universal plague, and even more so among the elderly. Some of them have lost their spouse, some have lost their siblings, and some have even lost children. And when all that loss is piled on top of the loss of normal faculties (hearing and vision), loss of health, and loss of independence, many become depressed. Depression perpetuates and exacerbates loneliness so that it becomes an ever-more vicious cycle.
Today, I voluntarily let myself be “kidnapped”—twice! The first was Benny, who always wears a Jesus cap, indoors and out. He’s a sweet guy who loves the Lord and loved his wife. They had been married for 52 years, when she had a catastrophic stroke and died a few years ago. He’s never gotten over the loss. When he talks about meeting Jesus face-to-face in a near-death experience, his eyes tear up. And when he talks about his wife, the tears overflow. But he’s always got a friendly word and a ready smile.
The second one was Fred, who always wears a basketball jacket and cap. I had seen a painting up in the hall outside the Game Room, and noticed that his name was on it. He had painted a church in Rome, so at lunch I complimented him on the painting because I knew it for a church in Rome even before reading the title. He was very excited to have his painting noticed and recognized. His wife died just before he moved in here as the very first tenant two years ago. Then he told me something else about himself: he’s the Free Throw Wizard—he’s shot over 2 Million free throws without missing. And here’s the really amazing thing about that: he shoots from behind a stack of boxes eleven feet high—he can’t see the basket. In fact, he gave me his book titled Free Throw Wizard, and you can watch him on You Tube: Free Throw Wizard.
Here’s the thing: it only cost me a bit of time, but in both cases, I made these men happy just by being available to listen to them tell me their stories. Sometimes you’ll meet a Free Throw Wizard, and other times, you’ll just help somebody find a reason to smile. Either way, it’s all good. And the bonus is that a good listener is never lonely. God is good! Now get out there and share His goodness with some lonely people.