Loneliness can take a toll on a person

Published 8:34 am Friday, May 4, 2012


Donalsonville Assembly of God

Relay for Life was tremendously exciting and successful again this year. As a pastor, hospice chaplain, and cancer survivor the event means more to me than simply an opportunity to support a good cause. And in the midst of the seriousness, there is always loads of fun.

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Among the fundraisers at Relay in Donalsonville was the opportunity to purchase real live gold fish. That fits the bill perfectly for any 10-year-old boy, so Chandler got his. Obviously a fish cannot survive indefinitely in a plastic bag filled with water, thus other arrangements had to be made; I offered to take the fish and let him live in my aquarium. Chandler’s mother, Kristie, thought it was an excellent idea and the deal was on.

Lightning, as Chandler chose to name him, looked like an orange giant beside the little tetras already residing in my fish tank. Thankfully they all seemed to get along and did not attack each other-at least not while I was looking. Everything appeared to be working out nicely and I figured I had done everyone a favor, both fish and man, by offering to keep Lightning. However, I noticed that the newcomer was not eating when I fed the other fish. I figured that was only part of the adjustment process and when he got hungry enough he would begin to battle the rest of the crowd for the flowing flakes of food when I dropped them in.

Several days after Lightning came home with us, Gale and I were out of town overnight. When we returned, I noticed that Lightning was not moving at his usual swift speed; in fact he had no speed at all. It did not take long for me to confirm what I feared: Lightning was dead. How do you convey such news to a 10-year-old? I chose the easy route: I told Kristie to tell him!

I have had fish aquariums for years, yet I still do not know a great deal about what keeps fish healthy. I cannot help but guess, though, that Lightning’s inability to become part of the group played a role in his demise. Regardless of the accuracy of my guess about the fish’s death, it does remind me of how detrimental it is when humans become isolated and not part of a circle of friends.

Loneliness takes a tremendous toll on a person’s well being-physically and emotionally. In dealing with hospice families over the years, I have seen numerous examples of loneliness and grief eroding away the life of spouses and friends after the death of their loved ones. While it is understood that we do not have the ability to change their circumstances, offering them a little time and attention can make a huge difference in their lives. The Bible states that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, New International Version). In Matthew 10:42, we find also that Christ spoke of the value of giving even a cup of cold water to another. Extending the love of Christ to the lonely does not have to be either complicated or difficult, and doing so can be more meaningful than most of us realize.

And as for Lightning, maybe Lightning II will mysteriously appear in my aquarium soon. I’m sure that would bring a smile to Chandler’s face!