Overcoming Loneliness and Despair
"I'm so lonely! What am I going to do?"
How often have we heard that? This sickness of loneliness happens to most of us, or to most people we know. Another persistent question comes to many of us: "I've lost everything! How can I be happy?"
When I was divorced, I lost the house that I had put much money into. I also lost my car. Because of a cut-back at work, I eventually lost my job. I had nothing, not a penny to my name. Just a few days before, I had a house, two cars, a wife and two children, a healthy bank account, and a good job. Now, I had nothing. Zilch!
Not long into my new bachelorhood, I attended what my church calls a "fireside," a place for people to go and hear someone give a speech about their spiritual forte, or their success stories on religious and personal growth subjects. This fireside featured someone who had an easy formula against loneliness and despair: Service.
After a few days, our "ward" (parish or congregation) organized a caroling trip to an old-folks home. Soon, I found myself singing to unkempt somber people who looked at us as if we were from Mars. But later, when I was shaking hands with the old folks to wish them a merry Christmas, an old lady clung to my hand and pulled me down to her level. She said, as if it had taken much concentration to speak, "Come back again, okay?" I promised her I would.
As I thought about this lady's invitation, I got to thinking about the fireside I attended, and how I could be of service. I had been practicing the guitar, and I knew a lot of songs my father had taught me, songs he had learned from his mother, who sang songs from the late 1800's. My father and mother knew songs from the early 1900's, and I had learned many of them. So I decided to visit this place on a monthly basis and sing these songs to the old folks.
It was surprisingly easy to set up performance times for the old-folks home. After a while, I realized I didn't always need to make an appointment. And they always came! Though they had trouble showing it, they seemed to greatly appreciate my visits to them. The old lady who invited me back wanted to kiss me, and she told me she loved me. I found that you can be a novice, but be treated like a celebrity. The old folks are very forgiving, and it's an excellent place to hone your talents.
One time, I was singing a song called "Anything." It's a song that, when you ask the people what they want to hear, and if they say "Anything," then you sing them this song. As I was singing it, one of the ladies slowly turned her head to me and showed great interest. When I was done, she said, "I didn't think anybody knew that song, any more." After that, she taught me another verse to it.
Another time, an old man -- at another home -- told me he used to perform with the guitar, and he had me review how to get certain chords on the strings. Interacting with old folks and with people you can't identify with very well is a great way to expand your general awareness and your understanding of human nature.
Finding myself without work, I decided to try traveling, now that I didn't have a wife to report to. I decided to do caricatures -- comic portraits of people. Most of my work was done with a group of traveling artists, who had a wide range of artistic products. We booked shows at malls across the western United States. But the contracts stated we had to be at our booths at all times the malls were open. This meant all day Sunday, the most productive day of the week. So I couldn't attend church. But I learned in Church that going to church doesn't bring you the blessings; it's doing what they teach you in church that counts. So I decided to apply what I learned in Church, and visit the unfortunate, and the widows.
Mondays were always free, and sometimes Tuesdays. These were the days we were to recharge our energies, create new wares, and for traveling to the next city for our next gig. As I didn't have to create anything new (I drew pictures of people as they sat in front of me), I had time to go to the old-folks homes.
One time, I saw a home "for the retarded," and I went there. This particular place was a home for retarded males, adults who were in their twenties and thirties. This was one of the more rewarding visits I had made: The guys were very demonstrative of their appreciation for my coming to visit them. They seemed to show that I had renewed their spirits, and restored their faith in mankind. Not only did I feel like a celebrity among them, I had definitely grown in spirituality and with a great feeling of self-worth.
During this time of my life, my sister had invited me to live in her basement, and offered cheap rent. There were some weeks when I wasn't traveling, and found myself alone in her house. But I remembered the advice of that fireside, and took it upon myself to clean her house, cook for the family, and teach the kids as much as I knew about life. She was a single mother, with four children. I helped the children off to school, created incentive programs to help them do their chores, and tried helping them with homework.
My performances at the rest homes, and this service I was doing for my sister, took my mind off of myself, and off of my problems. I worked at improving the old songs I knew, and I dreamed up new programs and teaching moments for the children. I felt no type of loneliness or sense of personal failure over my losses. I was happy, and I could sincerely convince people that the Lord was blessing me beyond measure.
Giving time to others feeds to the tendency to seek the resources within, so that one can improve his/her service, and to find ways to better bless the lives of the people he/she is serving. This kind of dedication is what brings true popularity and sincere accolades from others. With just a little effort in this direction, things will come to you, and you will be mindful of the things around you that you can incorporate into your plans. This easily becomes an obsession, to the point of pushing all selfish thoughts and could-have-beens out of your mind. You now have direction in life, and will undoubtedly feel a great satisfaction that you are helping to make the world a better place. In the end, what you give of yourself in life will speak more for you and your character, than will the monetary assets or false popularity you might be dreaming of.