Every morning he opens his eyes to a life in which no one knows he’s awake. No one knows what time he gets out of bed. No one even wonders. He hears no “good morning.” Only the silence of a second-floor efficiency which he accesses via wood steps on the outside of a house. The quiet is a woeful sound, roaring at him daily, “You don’t matter!”
Even before he gets up, he begins to wonder how he will fill the hours of another day alone. What will he fix for his morning meal? When was the last time he ate breakfast with anyone? Or lunch? Or supper?
His phone rings. Telemarketers have discovered he’s an easy mark. His tender conscience finds it hard to say “no.” So he waits. And listens. To see if that one on the other end of the line is calling him, or just his pocketbook.
The stack of unopened junk mail on his kitchen counter attests to the number of times he’s said “yes,” even though his modest contributions probably don’t pay an hour’s wage for the fund raisers who keep asking for more.
After his shower, breakfast, and meds, he can no longer put off facing the hours ahead. Varying days offer the relief of part-time structure. Those are the ones when he goes to work at a high-end food market, bagging groceries.
It’s the days off which are, too often, more painful. It feels strange to live without any sense of community. To have no integral part in a group of people with whom to regularly interact. To have no identifiable social circle which knows him, and laughs with him, enjoys him and values him. And wants him around. He has no friends among whom he has a place so vital that he would be missed if he were not there to fill his role. Instead, his spot is only by specific, occasional invitation. And it feels indescribably, unspeakably, achingly lonely.
On the long days, he busies himself with nature, crafting abodes for birds and bats. Or walking around lakes, watching for signs of changing seasons which only the well-trained eye could spot.
He is a brilliant man. Intelligent. A deep thinker. Artistic, yet outdoorsy. He’s a handyman extraordinaire. He holds a treasure of captivating knowledge and experience with God’s creatures. He loves a good joke. At the smallest opportunity, his eyes twinkle with merriment. But the world is missing out. They pass him by, bicycling, skating, jogging, walking their dogs. Living. If they only knew.
Sometimes he shares lunch at a half-way home for others with mental illness. His own label? Schizophrenia. He’s been seen at that half-way house comforting, encouraging and welcoming first-time visitors, teens whose lives brought them to this place set apart from “normal” society.
His compassion seems boundless. When he prays, I listen in hushed awe to his broken humility, to his tender reverence, loyalty, and love for the Lord. I listen to him intercede for others. And it brings me to tears. How can he be so trusting in the midst of a life with so much pain and desolation?
I’ve been in his circumstances. Not with the diagnosis tag, but I know what it’s like to be so set apart from society that I can find no meaningful place on the planet. I know what it feels like to face each day knowing no one wonders about me. I know what it’s like to go day, upon day, upon day, with no one to talk to. No face-to-face encounters. And it nearly drove me insane. My anguish could only be expressed with at-the-top-of-my-lungs screams. Does anyone care? Does anyone understand?
I thank God for that experience. Unless one has endured that kind of suffocating alone-ness, it’s impossible to understand what guts it takes for this man to face each day. He could give up. He could wallow in self-pity. But he doesn’t. He finds projects to keep himself busy. He prays. He picks up the phone and reaches out. Those who find his calls interruptive have no idea how brave he’s being. They have no true concept of loneliness. And though I would love for them to understand this kind of pain, I would not wish it on anyone.
God let me experience it…for a long time…and I consider it a gift. It expanded my world, gave me new eyes to understand this man, and also to realize that society is full of people like him.
The man about whom I write has no idea that he is one of my role models. He is one of my life heroes. I genuinely admire him. I am praying fervently that God will give him a social circle in which he is an integral part, and is not just an invited guest. I will not quit until I know he is part of a people group who actually see how delightful he is, and want him around. Everyone needs that. It’s God’s way.
Copyright, Seriouswhimsey, March 13, 2009
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