AgeUK are running a project in Risinghurst tackling loneliness and isolation, especially of elderly people. Part of the difficulty is their invisibility. Some may have family living at great distance who visit occasionally, but be so rarely seen by their neighbours that they could have a serious accident and no-one notice for days. Some have no family at all. Isolated people can slip through the net of Health and Social Services systems. Every year the City Council finds itself providing the funerals and dealing with the estates of ten people who had no-one. Few actively choose the hermit’s life. Most suffer from their isolation; some are trapped and crushed by it. “It is not good for man to be alone”, says God after creating Adam. It’s not necessary.
We have a popular hymn which begins and ends with :
Brother, sister, let me serve you,
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.
When I was a hospital porter there were those whom it was a pleasure to help. They smiled through the indignities and accepted help gracefully — they made it worth going to work despite the rubbish wages. It was ‘win-win’ for both of us. Others’ pride meant they resented needing help, so were either aggressive and demanding or just sullen.
There are so many people and agencies willing to help (churches included), and so many would-be-good neighbours — not self-righteous ‘do-gooders’ but people who simply believe in helping others as they themselves may one day need helping.
A key Christian insight is that our vulnerability and distress can unlock love in others. We're not a burden — if we're humble enough to let others help.