Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 12, 2003
Good Samaritans stop and listen
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
Let me tell you about three women I know. Each carries a burden and each could use some relief.
The first woman is Ginny. She's in her mid-fifties and recently divorced. Her husband of 30 years decided that younger women were more fun, so he took off with one. Ginny didn't see it coming. She had thought that they had a decent marriage.
Ginny was and is devastated by the reality that "forever" isn't for her wayward husband. There are many side effects of divorce. The heart of the faithful partner is sliced and diced.
But one result Ginny had never anticipated was the loss of her married friends. In the beginning, the many couples with whom she'd been neighbours and friends were there for her. They thought her husband a cad and expressed their sympathy. But within months, they just stopped calling.
That's not an uncommon experience. Something in the newly acquired "single" state seems to bother these old friends. And Ginny's children have their own newly married lives. So Ginny now finds herself very much alone.
Then there's Martha. She and her husband deeply loved each other. Blessed with three small children, they made the perfect family, until one day, serious illness hit. Her beloved husband had developed inoperable cancer.
Martha rose to the challenge. No day went by when he didn't feel her unconditional love, dedication and support. She went the distance, living fully the promise to love and honour "in sickness and in health."
Finally, her husband died. People, over a thousand, came for the wake and funeral. Throughout the first month after her husband's death, Martha never wanted for love and friendship.
But now, eight months later, few call and fewer visit. People have moved on with their lives. Martha loves and cares for her children, but Martha feels the absence of adult company acutely.
Stacy is different from the others, but somehow the same. She is just a difficult woman to be around. Her tone is grating, her sense of timing almost always off. She tells the same stories again and again. And what she considers funny, others don't.
Stacy is like somebody we all know: difficult, a little boring and not a person you'd choose to hang out with. As one old acquaintance put it: "being with Stacy is always work." As a consequence, Stacy is usually alone. When she doesn't cook for herself at home, you'll find her at the local diner, sitting alone, with a look of expectation, hoping that someone will stop to talk. Few do.
All three of these women remind me of the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan. I don't think that the lawyer and the priest in that story were bad people, but at the sight of a recently mugged man who needed their time and effort, they didn't want to get involved. They probably figured that someone else would stop.
Someone did. The Good Samaritan is the fellow who makes time for others. And I think that he's needed now more than ever. Certainly, Ginny could use the friendship. Martha would give anything to have a cup of coffee with such a person. Stacy would be delighted to look up from her corner in the diner and see eyes that looked back instead of away. A Samaritan would be welcome to so many.
Here's the thing: you could be that Samaritan, the person who stops, listens and cares - the one who doesn't commit a sin of omission. Give it a try. This week, find just one person who needs a touch of compassion. Say, "How are you?" and mean it. Then listen.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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