June 4, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

The greatest poverty and the richest treasure

David SilerFrancine is 77 years old, an extreme extrovert and very close to her family.

She moved into her daughter’s family’s house after her physical health began to decline, and as she began to experience memory loss due to dementia. She never imagined leaving her home of 54 years, but after the death of her husband 12 years ago and her declining health, she knew that the time had come.

Francine’s family—her daughter, son-in-law, teenage granddaughter and twin 10-year-old grandsons—decided that they could make room in their home for Mom/Grandma, but knew that they would all have to adjust their lives. That was three years ago.

Francine’s memory has become markedly worse, and she now uses a walker to get around. Both Francine’s daughter and son-in-law work outside the home five days a week, and her grandchildren are in school and after-school activities. Francine, who used to be involved in nearly daily social activities, was homebound—in an empty house for most of the day. It didn’t take her long to let her daughter know that “the loneliness is nearly killing me.”

Francine’s daughter was not ready to place her mother into a nursing home, and found out through a co-worker about a wonderful place that could attend to her mother during the weekdays while the family was away.

Francine remarked that her new home during the day is perfectly named—A Caring Place. The Catholic Charities’ program is located just a few blocks away from Butler University in Indianapolis.

Now each day, Francine waits by the front window, or on warm mornings on the front porch, for the Caring Place bus to arrive to take her to this center that cares for her and a few dozen of her new, dear friends. Francine remarked that she began to worry about herself when she started talking back to her television, but now she has friends who listen to her.

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said that “the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” Of course, no poverty is pleasant, but nearly anything can be endured when it is shared with family and friends.

Human beings have a tremendous need to connect with each other. Have you noticed the explosion of the growth of social networking Web sites? Have you ever wondered why these sites have become so immensely popular?

Although not the same as a deep conversation in front of a fireplace in your living room, social networking sites give people a sense of belonging and connection. In this day and age of

over-busyness and the loss of a sense of community, we still long to be connected with others.

We each have within us the capacity to give the most precious gift that we have to give—the gift of being present to others.

Many of us do not have deep financial resources to share with others, but we all have the gift of our humanity. When we give that gift to a widow, widower, prisoner, elderly neighbor or anyone suffering from the poverty of loneliness, it allows them to experience the richest treasure in the world.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

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