Mother Teresa | 14. Loneliness
There are many kinds of poverty:
Even in countries where the economic situation seems to be a good one, there are expressions of poverty hidden in a deep place, such as the tremendous loneliness of people who have been abandoned and who are suffering.
As far as I am concerned, the greatest suffering is to feel alone, unwanted, unloved.
The greatest suffering is also having no one, forgetting what an intimate, truly human relationship is, not knowing what it means to be loved, not having a family or friends.
It's we who, with our exclusion and rejecting, push our brothers and sisters to find refuge in alcohol and become drunks. They drink to forget the deprivation of their lives.
Our Sisters already work in many parts of the world. Not too long ago, something strange happened to them in New York:
They were told that a woman had died, who knows when, at home. They had no other choice but to break the door down to get in.
Would you believe what they found? The rats had already begun to eat her corpse:
They tried to investigate. Who was she? Had she worked? Whose daughter was she? Whose mother? Whose wife? They came up with nothing!
They were not able to get any information about the lady except the number of her apartment. Even the neighbours across the hall knew nothing about her. What an extreme poverty!
That loneliness, that shyness, that feeling of thinking she was in everyone's way, of feeling despised, lacking everything!
Among my clearest memories, I have the one of the visit that I once made, to England, to a beautiful home for senior citizens:
It was magnificent. It had 40 residents. They lacked nothing there. I repeat that I remember it well: they were all attentive to the door. None of the faces had a smile.
A religious group ran the place. I asked the Sister who was on duty, "Sister, why doesn't anybody smile? Why do they look constantly at the door?"
"There something always happens," she answered. "They are always waiting for someone to come to visit them:
They dream of a son or daughter, come to visit them, some member of the family, or a friend coming through that door to visit them.”
Loneliness was an expression of their poverty, the poverty of seeing themselves abandoned by relatives and friends. The poverty of having no one coming to visit them is the poverty that older people feel the most.
When I look around and see the poor suffering from social and emotional alienation, I understand how Christ can feel sad to see himself alienated in them. The alienation that the poor suffer is the alienation that Christ suffers.
Old people like for others to listen to them. In some places we have groups of Co- Workers whose main responsibility is to listen. They visit typical homes, especially of older people, sit down with them the satisfaction of being listened to.
The older people, I repeat, love this even though they may not have much else to say other than unimportant things - to others, obviously, not to them - that happened long time ago.
To listen to someone who has no one to listen to him is a very beautiful thing.