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caring for the lonely

It used to bother me that hardly a Christmas or an Easter, a Fourth of July or a Labor Day could pass without my parents inviting people over for a meal. Widows. Vicars. College students. If you were going to be alone on a holiday {or pretty much any day}, Mom and Dad would find you, hug you and tell you what time the turkey would be ready.

Whether you liked turkey or not.

I wasn’t always such a fan. I didn’t want to have to sit politely at the table for hours. I didn’t want to have to behave and listen to stories of how our hometown used to look fifty years before I was born. I didn’t want to have to help wash the pretty dishes Mom used to make people feel special, the dishes that consequently couldn’t get tossed in the dishwasher when they’d left.

Sometimes I just seriously wanted a nap.

{This, I might note, has not changed.}

But my parents didn’t see it that way. They sat with little old ladies and high school students struggling to get along with their parents and drunks and the unemployed. They sat, and they listened.

For hours.

Entire mornings.

Full Sunday afternoons.

And they still do. It’s not unusual for my parents to hang up on me–albeit it graciously–on Saturday mornings because three or four of their widowed friends are coming over for brunch.

So for all my inward sighs and looks toward the clock and rehearsals in my head of how we ought to name our house “the place where fun goes to die,” watching my parents invite the lonely into their homes is good for me.

It’s taught me that we come alongside those who are lonely and hurting. We remind them that they have value and worth on account of Christ and not because of relationships. We sit with them when their family is too busy running from soccer practice to drivers’ ed to pay them any attention. We make them laugh. We even stuff them full of good food. We pray with them. We show them mercy and love, just as Christ has already done for us.

Someday, just maybe, we’ll go through an entire month or holiday season without a steady stream of houseguests at my parents’.

Actually, nope. We won’t.

Because as long as Mom can cook and Dad can make the lonely and the widowed and sad laugh, they will.
And that’s good for them.

And it’s good for me.

It’s good for all of us.

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