Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Urban Lonely

"A man can keep his sanity and stay alive as long as there is at least one person who is waiting for him. The mind of man can indeed rule his body even when there is little health left. A dying mother can stay alive to see her son before she gives up the struggle, a soldier can prevent his mental and physical disintegration when he knows his wife and children are waiting for him. But when 'nothing and nobody' is waiting, there is no chance to survive in the struggle for life." from The Wounded Healer, Henri J. M. Nouwen

The city can be very, very lonely.

A young girl in our church once explained her pregnancy to me in these terms.

"Larry, I needed a baby. I wanted someone to love and I needed someone to love me," she said.

She would have no husband and her baby no father, but she was going to have one other person to love in this world.

Things are more complicated than our easy, middle class moralisms often allow.

Poverty destroys communities from the inside out. Renewing the social capital of neighborhoods and families and the relational fabric that provides people nurture, love and meaningful relationships is the nature of the work we attempt to do in the city.

Nouwen is correct.

If a person has just one other person who is waiting for his or her return, the world and everything in it can begin to change.

My young friend who thought she had to have a baby to find someone to care for and to care for her might have chosen differently if there had been other, authentic alternatives that she could have identified and understood.

Our work is about love and building human connections that will sustain life and give us all reason to both wait and to return "home."


Joel Quile said...


I sent you an email but am not sure if it is the correct address. Can you please let me know if you receive it?

Thanks brother.

Anonymous said...

As I read your post today I couldn't help but think of Viktor Frankl and Nelson Mandela. Whatever their prison, they remained connected, remarkably, by the filament of love; love kept them alive, kept them free. Yet a young girl living freely in our community is imprisoned by this very lack of connection.

This is beyond heartbreaking.

How does one -- how does a community -- recreate this conection?

"Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality." -- Viktor Frankl