Hugs, service to others, heal loneliness and despair

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 13, 2006

“Those who always take may eat better, but those who give sleep much better.”

Last week’s column on loneliness closed with a quote from a song by Cochrane coffee companion “Santa” Leo Peters: “I’m sending you a little hug today . . . to help, to heal, to hope.”

Not only did I receive a heart-warming embrace of many e-hugs in response, but some beautiful letters, too.

“Santa” Leo himself, after a “wonderful week of Santa gigs,” wrote to share his observation that the “people who desperately need a hug are the elderly, the widows and grandparents. Christmas is a tough time to spend alone with only your memories.”

As someone who has had to struggle personally with negative emotions surrounding his bout with cancer, he added, “As soon as we put ourselves in service to others, our problems disappear.”

Among the many other inspiring responses came this note from a dairy farm near Edmonton:

MOTHER TERESA said that loneliness in the West is worse than the poverty in the East. I once worked in New York City as a cook for an ambassador to the United Nations. He and his family lived in a large apartment in a posh building on Park Avenue. The only friendly people in the building were the workers. I later learned a lady threw herself out the window from a top floor. If only I had known there was a lonely lady there I would have visited her.

One never saw a letter carrier or any other delivery person. One was completely cut off.

In a less smart building on New York’s West Side lived a relative of mine. In the elevators people would be friendly. They would say, "Mrs. Wilson, how is your dog today?"

A widowed friend said when she lost her husband that she would have to make loneliness her friend. She has been so busy caring for others that I think she has not had to do much of that.

—Jenny Bocock, St. Albert

THIS IS VERY MUCH the sentiment of a mentor of mine on Jewish matters. (The word “Hashem,” meaning “the Name,” is a Jewish reverential way of referring to God.)

MY HEART SADDENS when I read of people's desperation, and above all, when I read of their loneliness. I have not, thank you Hashem, ever felt that kind of despair, but I attribute it to my deep belief in Hashem and what He needs of me. When I feel myself sinking a bit, I turn to Him through psalms or my own kind of prayer and I immediately feel uplifted and renewed.

I find when I do for others like volunteering at a nursing home, feeding the hungry, making up gift parcels for the needy, visiting a shut-in, or collecting for the Food Bank, there is never a moment to feel lonely or alone. There are so many places to put one's efforts and love and by doing this, loneliness will never prevail.

There are so many places to put our energy and love, and so many social venues that need our attention. Loneliness is often the result of looking inward instead of looking towards others who could benefit from our efforts. The pain of being left alone in the world is often eased when helping to relieve others of their deep pain. There are so many agencies anxiously looking for foster families, big sisters and big brothers, drivers, companions for seniors, readers for the blind, volunteers at churches and social service agencies – the list is endless.

We need to show God that we respect His world and His creations by reaching out to others and then invariably healing ourselves by these simple acts of kindness and love. This holiday season is not a time to think of receiving, but rather to think of giving. Those who always take may eat better, but those who give sleep much better.

—Sandy Corenblum, Calgary

I SHARED SANDY’S letter with the pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cochrane. I’ll close with his response:

SANDY’S WORDS are very touching. I could not agree more. Even though it often seems so, we do not journey alone. We have the support of family and friends, but most importantly we have the abiding presence of God. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

—Rev. Fred Monk, Cochrane

© 2006 Warren Harbeck

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