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Walking Our Faith: Reaching out and checking in

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

When Charlie, my brown Newfoundland dog, passed away five years ago, I sat on my couch and cried like a torrential summer thunderstorm for two hours straight.

When I received the phone call of my father’s death 30 years ago, I felt so numb I couldn’t cry at all. But for the next three years, I would cry on his birthday and on the date of his passing and at the mention of the death of anyone by heart attack.

After Buddy, my latest Newfoundland rescue dog, passed last week, I went to work, grateful for the structure it gave my day. But when I came home from work, I closed my front door and did not want to come out. I did not want to speak with anyone or see anyone. Instead, I busied myself with knitting and sewing and cooking. Anything to keep my hands busy and my mind distracted from the sadness I felt.

But my good friends Pat and Joyce insisted on stopping by one at a time, even if it meant just standing on the doorstep and speaking to me for five minutes. They refused to allow me to completely isolate myself. They understood my need to grieve in private but they also understood the fine line between privacy and a dangerous slide into depression.

During this pandemic, many in our community are homebound either because of illness or because their age or preexisting condition make them more susceptible to the virus.

Unfortunately, the very isolation that is meant to protect us can also be a strain on our emotional or mental health.

If you’re an extrovert, all of this uncertainty may push you to be out and about as much as possible, and not being able to do so can leave you feeling frustrated and lonely, especially if you’ve been homebound since March, like my mother who thrives on social interaction.

If you’re an introvert, like me, your natural inclination is to be alone. But that can become a habit that’s difficult to break and the comfort becomes a cage of loneliness.

Now more than ever, we need one another. We need to be good neighbors. We need to give the gift of comfort and love. We need to check in with those who are homebound, and if we ourselves are homebound, we need to reach out and ask for help.

Safety constraints may keep us at a distance, but we can make phone calls, video calls, send text messages. Even a card received in the mail counts. And so does standing on the doorstep, 6 feet apart, wearing a mask, and talking and listening, especially listening.

When Joyce stopped by last week, I opened my front door, and she stood by her car, and it was physically painful for me to speak because my grief weighed so heavy. But Joyce stood at a distance and kept asking me if I was OK and didn’t leave until she got the answer she needed.

On another afternoon, Pat sat in a chair across the room from me as I sat on the couch and worked on a sock that I was knitting. We didn’t talk much, but of course that wasn’t the point. Pat was just there to make sure I was OK.

Each of us knows a friend or a neighbor who might be going through a challenging time because they’ve lost a job or are facing financial difficulties or dealing with a health crisis, or we may be that someone.

Please reach out to them once or twice a week. And if you are someone who is feeling isolated, please call a friend or your church or Building Hope Summit County.

In gratitude for the help I received, I joined the outreach group of my own church, St. Mary’s, to pay forward the love I received. Many churches in Summit County have created outreach partners for the homebound in our community.

Things will get better. But for now, let’s just focus on getting through. As we reach out and as we accept the help that is offered, we will encounter the beauty of the human spirit and discover our resilience. 

Prayer of St. Ignatius Loyola

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the
sense of your presence, your love, and your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in your
protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us; for, living
close to you, we shall see your hand, your purpose, and your will through all things.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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