It is no accident that a meal is at the heart of our religious celebration. There is something about the communal nature of a meal which makes us more human. We’re a social animal, and meals are a way of sharing what we have with those we wish to be close to.
All of that came to mind yesterday when, after Saturday’s mission, we had Mrs H over to lunch. She seemed to enjoy the fellowship at chapel, and it was clear from her Bible that it was well-thumbed. She said later that it had been a thoroughly good time. She came back, as it happened with the Pastor, for lunch, so we were able to relax (as he was taking her home afterwards) and enjoy ourselves. It was a thoroughly convivial occasion, and so nice that the loneliness from which she has suffered was dissipated.
It all brought home the atomisation which our society imposes on us. I still live within twenty five miles of where I was born, and I was able to see my old mum every day until she died at the grand old age of eighty eight, twenty five years go. But not one of my children lives within a hundred miles of where I live. When the time comes that Mrs S or myself is called, then whichever of us is left will find themselves pretty much alone. We’re fortunate, we have friends, although as we took stock, fewer than a couple of years ago, as the Grim Reaper makes his way among us. We also have the community of the chapel, and that is something we treasure. But what of those like Mrs H who lose that contact?
As she said, because she’s perfectly healthy, she’s of no interest to the doctors or social services. As it was her later husband who used to drive her to chapel, she’s no way of keeping in proper touch with a community twenty miles away, and he children live in the south. So there she is, alone. She’s not poor – her late husband provided well for her, and all she lacks is what we were able to provide – human contact and company.
It set me to thinking about how many more people like Mrs H there are hereabouts, and about whether Mrs S or myself is headed in the same direction in years to come. So we’ve decided that we’re going to take the area within a five mile radius of our chapel and do some door-knocking. We’ll do it during the day, because we’ll find then only those who are not at work. It seems a good way to make contact with people, not least those like Mrs H who are home alone -but don’t much like it.
We’ll have to see how it goes, but since we’ve a few like myself and Mrs S who are retired and have time on our hands, it should be simple enough. We can’t invite them all chez Sales (though I suppose we could do a rota) but we can invite them all to the fellowship at the chapel. It’ll be the famous tea and biscuits, of course – but it is more than that. It is a sharing of time and space.