To make the world a lot less lonely.
March 7, 2021
“Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in the world, but people capable of giving them their attention.” Simone Weil
Some of us are living in a crisis of conscience. We are ashamed that we haven’t done more to alleviate the bigotry and injustice that has always been here.
We wonder what we can do to be part of the solution. Take a class, read a book, join a group, post on social media. We want to do something big because we need to feel better about ourselves after all the years we did nothing.
Here’s the thing.
What is needed isn’t big, dramatic, or even time-consuming.
Walk out of your home, head down the street, go into a store, go anywhere — and you will have more opportunities to address the problem than you can handle.
A homeless woman is sitting on the ground next to her cart.
A messy, dirty, cowering little girl is being yelled at by her mother in Walmart.
The mailman limps to your door every day wearing support hose because he’s in so much pain, but he needs the work.
A shy ten-year-old boy comes to your door with a small plastic shovel to earn money shoveling your driveway.
We spend so much time looking for what’s wrong with the world and so little time offering what the world wants.
We want attention, a smile, to be told we matter. That God or whatever organizing principle is running the show loves us. No matter what we’ve done, what we look like, how smart we are.
It takes so little effort to look someone in the eye and smile. But it’s not easy. It takes courage. What if they look away? What if they think we’re weird? What if they reject us, like they’ve been rejected over and over?
What if they smile back, or cry because you saw them, or get the strength to go on another day?
The mailman wants to chat, but we’re late for a meeting; we think it’s an interruption. But then we realize we just made his day and the meeting wasn’t nearly as important as we thought. That’s why we’re here.
The little girl looks shyly up at us while her mom is still yelling; we catch her eye and smile at her with all the warmth we can muster. Maybe she won’t feel so alone. That’s why we’re here.
The homeless woman hollers something unintelligible; we stop and say hi, and ask if she needs something. That might be the finest moment of our day, and her day, whether she needs something or not. That’s why we’re here.
The boy can’t possibly shovel our driveway with his small plastic shovel; we give him a metal shovel and go out and work with him. We become a teacher and a friend in the blink of an eye. That’s why we’re here.
I just remembered a time when my nine-year-old son went to a neighbor’s door and rang the bell, ready to give his spiel about selling Christmas wrapping. And she yelled at him to go away.
That was someone in need of loving attention.
When you look at the difficult people in your life, almost invariably, the ones who have trouble making and keeping friends, the ones you don’t want to be around either, need attention.
When we stop deciding who deserves love and start offering it without reservations, we become the solution.
We won’t solve the problems of the world. We will, though, enrich our lives beyond measure and warm the hearts and souls that are waiting for love, to be seen, to matter.