When I was younger, my mom told me that as we get older we lose more and more of our friends. Of course that makes perfect sense if you do the numbers. But I was too young to grasp exactly how loaded that statement was and how much it would impact my life.
I just came from a short visit with a sweet friend who, like me, is now a part of the “widow’s club.” The widows club is not a club that people apply to be a part of. No one asks to be added to this roster!!!
Before I became a member, I honestly didn’t realize just how large a membership this club boasts. Stop and think about the widows that you probably know and then try to imagine just how many there are. The US Census Bureau reports that “nearly 700,000 women lose their husbands each year and will be widows for an average of 14 years.” According to the AARP, in 2001 there were 11 million widowed women in America. Worldwide, the United Nations (2010) says that “at least 245 million women around the world have been widowed and more than 115 million of them live in devastating poverty.”
This tidbit should rattle your chain a little bit: “On average 75% of the survivor’s support base is lost following the loss of a spouse or significant other; this includes loss of support from family and friends.” (widowshope.org) We are all guilty of not following up on our widowed family and friends. We all just assume they are fine and that someone else is seeing to their needs.
Last night, 11 women from my new neighborhood ate dinner at my house. 9 of them are widowed, too. One was so excited when I invited her to come, you’d have thought I just told her she’d won the lottery!!! Why would a dinner invitation cause that response? One of my neighbors told me that this lady isn’t usually very sociable. Her response to my invitation and the fact she came tells me that the problem might be that she’s just not invited. We’ve all done it; you know, make the comment, “she won’t come so I’m not going to ask.”
I guess I notice the widows more because I am one of them. My heart breaks each time I learn of a new member of our “club.” I can’t be with all 11 million widows in America, but I can reach out to a group of them right here in my own town. I know what it means to be included and what it means to be excluded. If opening my home causes someone to feel included and cared for, then that is what I will continue to do. My family will tell you that I tend to be more of a loner, so opening my home takes a concerted effort on my part. There’s a saying that “to have a friend, be a friend.” I learned the hard way as a “club” newbie that if I didn’t want to sit home alone, I was going to have to make the first move. It was that or become bitter towards those who didn’t even realize I needed to be included. I don’t believe for a minute that anyone deliberately ignores those around them with needs. It’s a busy, busy world and we all have our own problems and lives to try to keep going. But I also know we have to stop and take the time to just show the love of Jesus to a wounded soul. Those are the kinds of things that will go with us to eternity.
This is not meant as fussing, but just a gentle reminder to show a bit more compassion to your family member or neighbor or friend who find themselves alone. One more plate at the dinner table won’t really add much to the clean-up and could be exactly what that person needs. And whatever you are having will suit them just fine!
So, who do you know that you could include this week?
Lots of love, Sharon