"Lonely widow without family is looking for company on Christmas Eve. Pays well."
That's what she wrote in the newspaper ad. Clean and simple. 88-year-old Reidun Orest made the Norwegian news in late November this year. Offers from people who wanted to keep her company started pouring her way although she didn't expect a single response. Their intentions, of course, remain unclear.
I've kept the story of old age loneliness to share with you on Christmas Eve because it is one that we seldom think about and even more seldom we see unfold in front of our eyes. Either because we're keeping them closed, or because the main protagonists in the story are keeping it a secret.
Reidun, as you can imagine, is not the only lonely pensioner on Christmas/Easter or every day. And while she has no family, I can name at least a dozen elderly people who feel abandoned by their families. And loneliness only gets stronger in the evenings. That is a recurrent phrase I've heard from themselves.
The simple "Pays well." is what makes me question the moral values of Western civilization. Norway is one of the most technically and economically advanced countries in the world. Nursing homes here are certainly luxurious and yet human attitude and plain sympathy are often lacking. No amount of money can replace the time spent listening to someone's story or just sharing silence.
In the gold rush of present day, people simply don't have the time for the lonely. They don't even have the time to think of those who are vulnerable and often financially unimportant. Capitalism has turned us into money eating beasts who rarely do things out of good heart and that is why we feel so moved when we watch the next YouTube video of a wonder-person who's helping the poor.
The mere act of kindness has turned into an exception of the rule.
So, today, on Christmas Eve, I am asking you, don't make it a lonely one. And please, don't make it your only attempt.
Billions of dollars have been spent for Christmas decoration in the US, while people in need are left out. Your government is not to blame. It is you who needs to take action and do what your heart tells you. Until you leave the action to someone else, nothing is going to get done.
I will not give you a list of ideas on how to make a lonely elderly person's life happier, I will tell you what my husband and I do.
We visit our friends for evening meals; remember, that's the time when loneliness can be felt most distinctively. We love to cook there, in the pleasant company of friends twice as old as we are, people whose precious experiences and memories from childhood spring to life on candle light. We listen to their favorite music together, start loving it with them, get influenced by them, let them broaden our horizons, share our experience and invariably have the time to hear the same story again and again. With time all this turns into love.
Even if those people are not your family they become one.
And loneliness is no more. Neither for them, nor for us. Because we become one. Family. Of human beings that share their hearts.
Merry Christmas, my friends, don't make it a lonely one. Neither the days that will follow. Because one day you might be in Reidun's shoes and you might not be able to pay well.