Everybody remembers them, the awkward teenage kid at school, the bashful girl with braces, the pudgy kid that no one wanted on their team, the poor kid who didn’t have the money to hang out with the “in” crowd and do cool things. They would sit alone in the cafeteria. They would sit alone at home on the weekend while everyone else was having fun. They walked the halls alone. They walked home alone. Their phone never rang with a friend asking them to come over. They often would have a pained expression on their face that said, “I am lonely, I need a friend”. Remember them? What was their name? Where did they live?
Maybe you were one of these kids. If so, you remember the longing for friendship, acceptance and companionship. You probably haven’t forgotten the pain of rejection, ridicule, or worse, just being ignored.
I am learning that these feelings are not confined to school children.
As a pastor, a good portion of my time is spent with people. I watch them as they come into church. Just as when they were kids, they are self-conscious about their appearance, their clothing, their hair, etc. They walk in feeling like they are under a microscope and unfortunately, they often are. They sit nervously in an open spot and endure the stares. They are unfamiliar with the “order of service”, often they don’t know the hymns and don’t have a Bible. From my seat on the platform, I can see them blush as the offering plate passes and they have nothing to contribute. They often leave the at the conclusion of the service like they are shot out of a cannon.
Then there are the elderly. Those who are homebound or in a nursing home. Their family is too busy to come and visit them. When you go to see them, they are so excited that they ramble on for long periods of time about their ailments, their family, and matters that may seem trivial to us, but are some of the highlights of their life. The loneliness they feel can drive them to distraction.
May God help us not to forget these people.
How can we make a difference? Treat them as Jesus would treat them, with mercy and compassion. Let that uncomfortable visitor know that you are glad they are in your church. Look past the way they look and see them as a soul for which Jesus died. Make them feel at ease. Invite them to sit with you, or, better yet, ask if you can sit with them. When the service is over, get their e-mail address or telephone number and follow up with them during the week. Do this without treating them as just another “contact”. Become a friend to them.
Call or visit that elderly person. Offer to take them to the store. Sit with them a while and chat with them. Above all, LISTEN! Maybe you don’t really need to hear about their great-great-grandchild winning third place in a science fair or how much their arthritis hurts them when it is cold, but they need to tell it. Take them a picture or a card. Let them know that they are loved. Pray with them.
May we never forget that God never forgets. Not one wallflower, nerd, geek, handicapped or elderly person is overlooked or unloved by Him. Let’s not let one person slip through the cracks of the floor of our lives. It may be that you are the one God wants to use to reach out to that person.