As I knew he would, Chad squealed when he heard my voice on the phone. “Linda! You called me!”
I had called in response to a request from a staff member at his group home. She asked if I would come to see Chad who had been admitted to the hospital today because of seizures. As I talked to the group home staff, I realized it was almost 9pm and I am an hour away. I promised to visit him tomorrow. “He’s asking to see you. I know that you can’t come tonight but would you call him?” she asked.
Chad and I talked for a few minutes and I promised to come to the hospital tomorrow. “Bring my friend when you come,” he pleaded.
“Chad, I can’t bring Mark. He’ll be at school when I come.” Chad is an active participant of The Special Gathering in Vero. He is 35 years old and Mark is his best friend at our Vero program, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged (developmentally disabled) community. We do classic ministry, evangelism and discipleship.
Mark is 19 and these two young men formed a comradeship during our van route each Saturday. Mark is not very verbal which suits Chad fine because he talks more than any three people should. Chad chatters and Mark laughs, grunts or smiles at the appropriate times. As they part late each Saturday afternoon, Chad will say, “I love you, Mark.” And Mark will say, “I love you.” Their friendship is genuine and touching.
At Chad’s request, I promised to call Mark and ask him to pray for his friend. Within minutes, I was speaking to Mark’s mother. “Chad, Mark’s friend from Special Gathering, is in the hospital. He wanted me to call Mark and ask Mark pray for him.”
“What?” Mark’s mother asked, not quite understanding my request. I repeated Chad’s question. This time Mother understood and she was emotionally shaken. “I’ll have him pray,” she said, in a broken voice. I understood. There was joy in her emotions.
Before Mark came to Special Gathering, his mother had confided to me that he had only one or two friends. Now, a friend needed Mark’s help in prayer. The acidic bitterness of loneliness is something that we all taste in our lifetimes. But loneliness can be the throbbing, constant pain with which our members reside. We desire that Special Gathering be a safe place for our members. I am so thankful that it has become not only a safe place for Mark but a place where his prayers are needed and wanted.
Do you struggle with loneliness? Do you know someone who wrestle with the specter of being left alone? Can you help them find friendship and meaning? What was your most difficult time of loneliness?