I don't mean to get too Deep Thoughts-y on you, but I've been reflecting a lot lately on just how fortunate I am. It's not as though I go around most of the time wishing for more, but a couple of recent events have brought things into sharp focus.
The first was a visit by one of my husband's friends, who was in town after an extended absence during which we weren't sure what had happened to him. While we were talking to him, it became evident that he has spent a lot of time homeless over the past several years. He told us he was renting a room in the city where he's been settled recently, but my husband and I suspect that he's sleeping in his car while he's in town.
This is a guy—I'd guess he's in his mid-sixties—who doesn't drink or take drugs and has no obvious mental illness. In the past he's been a business owner, but a divorce followed by several bad entrepreneurial situations left him in debt with minimal possessions. He rations his money very carefully and does what he can to save up, but often that's just not enough.
Of course we offered to let him stay at our house while he's in town, but he wouldn't hear of it. All I had to offer was the coffee and cookies we served while he was visiting and I sent him off with a handful of free coffee and doughnut coupons, which he gratefully accepted.
I've been thinking about him a lot because he's just one of many of our friends who are in bad straits. So far the rest of them all have places to live, but the list of looming mortgage foreclosures seems to grow every day. It's so hard to know how to help. All we can do is offer to be a safety net, even if it's likely that none of them will ever take us up on it.
The second thing that happened is that my dad's last sibling passed away on New Year's Day, two years to the day after his wife's death. When he called to tell me the news, I asked if he'd like me to go with him to her funeral, and he seemed very appreciative of the offer.
We took the train to St. Louis, Missouri, and that's where I am right now. One of my cousins and her husband picked us up from the train station last night and today we'll be spending the day at her house as the other cousins come in (my aunt had seven daughters), and the memorial service is this afternoon.
When I look at my 569 Facebook friends, I wonder how many will still be around when I'm my dad's age? Can social media help encourage and maintain more ties so that people don't get as lonely when they get older? I don't know the answer to that, but I suspect that even if Facebook is long gone 35 years from now, the Internet will make a difference in keeping people connected. Still, as with the first situation I described, how much of a concrete effect will it have in people's lives?
So that's what I've been musing about lately: poverty, mortality and loneliness. Let's all go hug some people today.