All the Lonely People
Why I don't WORK with lonely women . . .
. . . and why you shouldn't either
By Kay Hunter
She's been busy, developing relationships with a number of women who simply need a friend.
So, what's going on?
I was asked if I would write an article about the work I do with vulnerable women in Launceston, and I decided that such an article would be inappropriate for a number of reasons.
First of all, I don't WORK with vulnerable women. Instead, I know some vulnerable people whom I am privileged to call friends. I am lucky my 'work' allows me more time to spend with these friends than I might otherwise if I had different employment.
Secondly, I don't do anything special that's worthy of note. So this article is not about my 'work'. Rather, it contains some thoughts I have about why there are so many vulnerable people remaining in our communities who don't have friends, when we in the church are called by no less than Jesus himself, to reach out to such folk.
Often these people are without friends because they are somewhat invisible. If you think there are not some really lonely and vulnerable people sharing your space (including your church) then maybe you're not really looking.
Good friendships take time
Who are the people who creep in and creep out without any more than one or two word interactions? Who are the people that no one has invited into their home for a meal? Look around you--who is it in your church that nobody really knows anything about?
Maybe it is these people, who have been so battered by life. They will never open up and let you see anything other than the superficial, because that requires a level of trust that can only be gained by long, often very long, friendships.
Nurturing such friendships can take years and years. So, one question we must all ask ourselves is, are we prepared to persevere to get to know someone even if it takes years, with very little in the way of reciprocal giving? Are our friendships only with people who have the capacity to give back to us at least a little of the caring we give to them?
Love, acceptance and forgiveness
I believe that another reason some people travel lonely roads is because their default responses to people are often very inappropriate. Some people have become so disenchanted with people and life generally, that they often believe their best defence is to get in and blame someone else before the blame falls on them. This blaming often comes in the form of abuse, even to the very people who really want to be helpful.
These are often the folk who have been turned away from services in our community because, when the feel they are not being heard or understood, they react by becoming verbally abusive. So, are we prepared to stand face-to-face with someone who screams abuse at us because they have jumped to the conclusion that we don't understand what they need? Can we hang in long enough with folk like this, for them to trust that we have their interests at heart?
Go and look
And if we are not identifying these folk--well maybe we should go looking? Are we prepared to sit in the gutter with that person asking for coins, and hear a little of their story? Would we take them out for a coffee or a meal? Will we go to the services where these people get cheap meals, and share it with them?
Will we make eye contact with that person walking up the street swearing to themselves, and ask if they need assistance?
Then, if we are prepared to do these things, we might be truly amazed at the calibre of the friends we can make. We may find ourselves astounded at a level of resilience that is truly awe-inspiring.
The women I spend time with are my friends, they are not my projects. And like all friends (and indeed family members) they can annoy me and cause great frustration. But as with all God's children they are worthy of my time, sharing my resources, and most of all my unconditional love.
Kay Hunter is the Associate Pastor at City Baptist, Launceston
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