Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"The most terrible poverty is loneliness..." Mother Teresa

August 6, 2009


In the news lately has been this story of a man who walked into a gym, turned out the lights and opened fire, killing 3 women and then himself. This news story struck me for a number of reasons. First, I am a member of this chain of gyms, often frequenting the aerobics room. A place that for me signifies health and hard work became a place of terror for many women in Pittsburgh. R is in Pittsburgh right now and has seen and heard the countless stories. Lives were shattered. Lives were lost. I got to thinking about one particular life that was lost, the shooter. He writes of his loneliness in his blogs, of going home alone, being alone, not sharing life with anyone. And while this man very likely had some serious Axis II diagnoses and committed a heinous crime, I wonder how many times he was visibly lonely in his life. And then I wonder how many times someone reached out to him. Maybe many, maybe few. Regardless, so much damage comes from a lonely heart. So much so that Mother Teresa spoke frequently of the 'leprosy of loneliness."

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty."

"There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives--the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognize it. The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them."

"In the West there is loneliness, which I call the leprosy of the West. In many ways it is worse than our poor in Calcutta."

"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

I can think of so many examples in my own daily life of people who need and deserve someone to NOTICE them, to ACKNOWLEDGE their existence, their significance in the world. Be it the co-worker with Asberger's who talks incessantly but wants someone to HEAR her or the housekeeping lady who said that no one calls her by name at work ( I will from now on, p.s.), or the patient that will finish his days in a nursing home with the only human contact coming from the person with the blood pressure cuff. I think of my own times of loneliness, of sitting at a lunch table in high school and being ignored or of being on the receiving end of middle school mean girl fights (admittedly had some not proud moments of being on the giving end of that too). And I think of what Mother Teresa says about our HOMES and the loneliness that can lie within those too. I do not doubt that despite sharing my life with R, without commitment and work, we can easily become lonely in our own homes. I think of my grandmother and how I need to call her often as more and more of her friends are dying. I think of my mom, in her recently emptied nest, and those nights where she misses hollering at one of us.

Bottom line is that Mother Teresa had it right. Loneliness is the greatest poverty. In graduate school and practicums, we learned that one of the biggest risk factors for child abuse is isolation, families with no one around them. We see countless examples of bombers living alone in the woods and lonely college students opening fire on campuses. There are terrible, terrible consequences for people who suffer greatly with being lonely. With my heart open today, maybe God will show me who needs some company, who needs some acknowlegement of their great significance on this earth. I look forward to what He will show me.


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