Psalm 25: 15-17 “My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish.”
I was a baseball player, or so I thought. Baseball was my game: little league, pony league and high school. I was likely the worst player that ever donned a Braves or Yellowjacket uniform.
Baseball is a very intense game, for the catcher. I played most every position during those “realizing” years. I call them “realizing” simply because at some point in life we must realize what we’re not capable of.
During those years, my American dream was to play for the Pittsburg Pirates. I have no idea why they were my favorite team. At that time, I’d never been to Pittsburg. I did not know anyone in Pittsburg and had never seen them play except on a 21” black and white Zenith TV.
The catcher is always in action. He not only catches the pitched ball, but he is also the primary guard of home plate, which the opposing player is desperately trying to cross to score the winning run.
The catcher is in most games, faced with a situation which only a Roman gladiator could cope. At times he will see steel spikes flying directly at him. At the same time a 90 mile per hour fast ball is being propelled directly at his left eye as a projectile hurled by an over-zealous shortstop.
Simultaneously, a crowd of angry parents are shouting in his direction. Half of those will be screaming at him to miss the catch and the other half to get the out. What’s a young boy to do? I, at times, played the position of catcher and can verify that intensity.
On the other hand, is the lonely right-fielder. His position is in the outfield behind the first and second basemen. He is the loneliest and usually the worst player in the game. He possibly has the personality of a brick, and if by chance, a hit ball comes his way, he panics. The likelihood of him having a ball hit in his direction two times in a single game are about as probable as seeing a chipmunk fly over, wearing goggles and a red cape.
Most players cannot determine where the ball will travel when hit by their bat. To simply hit the ball over the heads of the infielders is the goal. Most batters are right handed and tend to pull the ball to the left or center field. The right fielder knowing this doesn’t expect much action and consequently becomes accustomed to the lack of opportunity to “get in the game.”
Some feel life is being lived as a right fielder. I think of church pastors and how so many of their church members are afraid to associate or socialize with them. I preach as an evangelist and a substitute. I have never pastored a church, but feel confident telling anyone: your pastor is not judging you. If you think he has a judgmental air about him and is judging you, it’s very likely, all in your head.
A pastor I had many years ago sometimes prefaced statements to me with, “Now, Van, I say this in Christian love.” I knew I was going to get a “talking to” but never felt like he was judging me.
Judging is not the job of a pastor, evangelist, missionary or the church clerk. That’s God’s job. I really don’t know any preacher that wants that responsibility. If I may suggest, ask your pastor over for dinner or simply to sit and talk awhile. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t talk about church and all those hypocrites!
We live in the communication and information age. Our ability to reach out to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, neighbors and most anyone else is virtually unlimited. Yet, we do not. There are no excuses good enough. Loneliness has reached epidemic proportions in America. Suicides are associated with depression and loneliness. Perhaps you could become the best friend someone has with a small investment of your time.
Emails seem so impersonal and feelings cannot be accurately conveyed into an email. Maybe that’s just me but nothing compares with a phone call or better yet, a visit. Nothing compares with sitting on a front porch in a pair of rocking chairs and reminiscing. Never underestimate the value of your presence in the life of someone. You are more valuable than you think.
A very large number of Americans are elderly and living alone. You cannot fathom how happy you could make someone by simply calling or visiting. Just to have someone listen to their stories of the past could make their day, week and maybe even their month.
When we worked as missionaries, we provided a rest home service the second Sunday of every month. For anyone to be glad to see me is almost unbelievable, but the residents always greeted us with big smiles and made us feel welcome. I treasure those times we spent with them.
When I served as a deacon in our church, each deacon had a “deacon family.” Margie and I spent many hours visiting those in “my family,” and not a minute of that time is regretted. I also came to realize how important it is to people to have their deacon or pastor pray with them. Never miss an opportunity to pray with someone.
When I was growing up in the 1950’s, my parents either had visitors or went visiting on Sunday afternoons. Needless to say I had to go and was bored into total exhaustion. I now realize those visits were therapy and an expression of caring for everyone involved, except me of course! Family connections were reinforced and conversations were usually pleasant.
Sometimes, people feel alone even when they’re surrounded by other people. Depression is of epidemic proportions in our society today. People have TV’s, computers/internet, smart phones and all types of electronic gadgetry. Interpersonal relationships are not a thing of the past, just a thing not utilized.
You may be the answer to someone’s depression or loneliness and the answer to a prayer. I’ve told the story before about a conversation I had with a New York City police officer the week after the 9-11 terrorist attack. After two hours and a pot of coffee, he said he had to get back on duty. As he walked away, he turned to me and said, “You’re a great conversationalist.” I had not said three words; I just listened.
Take an interest in people. Make your parents and grandparents a priority in your life. I can assuredly say you will not regret it. Do not put this off; do it today. Tomorrow may never come.
If you think the Maytag repairman was lonely, you haven’t been lonely until you become elderly and are stuck at home (perhaps by yourself), or played right field.
I dedicate this article to all those that have ever played right-field.