Saturday, July 16, 2011

How Friendship Can Give Me An Answer

OK, I admit: I went grudgingly. The leader of our School of Community proposed we do a work of charity for the parish monthly. The pastor suggested visiting a local nursing home within our parish boundaries and where he celebrates Mass monthly. And so a few months ago, seven of us met at the entrance of the nursing home. I kept thinking: I have papers to grade and laundry to do and a kitchen to clean and a garden to plant. And I also thought: I never have been inside a nursing home.

At the door we were greeted by the director of volunteers, a cheery woman who peppered her tour with humor and with practical and wise suggestions. She showed us the cupboard that holds the sign-in sheets and our name tags, the chapel where we'll spend some time in prayer before spending time with residents, and the rooms where we will play board games with residents. The facility was full of light and plants and a fat cat and older people in wheelchairs and using walkers.

As I walked around, I began to see this work could be enjoyable to me. Yes, I am busy but I do have an hour once a month to enrich my life by becoming part of someone else's. M, then the leader of our School of Community, reminded us that when we say we are "volunteering" we are helping someone else. When we understand that we are reaching out in charity, we are acknowledging our own needs, as much as someone else's.

Father Luigi Giussani who founded Communion and Liberation, described charity this way:

Life must be total sharing, but disattention, fear, love of comfort, obstacles in the environment, malice, all empty life of the value of charity. To create a mentality of charity, the most humble and effective way is to begin to live some remnant of free time expressly, purposely as a sharing in the life of others. Commitment involving physical sacrifice, moreover, is essential for it to influence our mentality.

Who loved us first? Charity helps us to return that love. This work is a small gesture of my need and my gratitude.

Our catechism teaches: "When charity animates his moral life, the Christian is free from servile fear and lives as a son responding to God who "first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). "If we obey out of love for him who commands, we are in the position of his children" (St. Augustine). 
This post is a response to a writing prompt on Friendship.


  1. Friendship can spring up in the most unexpected places. Very nice.

  2. Giving of yourself can add not only meaning but I really believe longevity to your life. This was very uplifting.

  3. Hi Allison, first time here. I do like this piece and I think it speaks to me about perspective and an open heart. This? I really like.
    I do feel like i am missing the 'friendship' part. Can you please help me here? I ask earnestly, because i really do think I missed something. (Maybe it is because I am very tired...?) Thanks!

  4. Thanks. I guess my sense is that true friendship must involve truly making our lives part of someone else's.

  5. My grandmother is in a nursing home. When I visited her there, it was my first trip ever to a nursing home. The thought of her in that place is made a little easier by the thought of people like you visiting and trying to make her life a little brighter.

    Thanks for linking up!

  6. Katie: Thanks for stopping by. It really enriches my life to make these visits.

  7. Beautiful post, Allison; especially as it related to a nursing home.

    Too many elderly sit, forgotten and alone, in these facilities. Staff members aren't family and, sadly, some of these people have no one left who visits them.

    I've written before about when my late mother was in a Dementia day care facility. She didn't know who I was any longer but several of the other elderly people would greet me each day when I dropped her off and returned to bring her home. I would respond to whatever name they called me and sit for a few moments to talk. In some ways, it made up for being forgotten by my mom and, more importantly, I helped someone smile, at least for a little while.


  8. Thanks, Slidecutter, for stopping by and sharing. I really appreciate this story.