09 An Untraditional Lent - Marcellus D’Souza

posted Feb 22, 2018, 8:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 22, 2018, 8:56 AM ]
This year, I have decided to observe Lent in an untraditional style. The Church requests all adults to fast and abstain from alcohol and meat, to attend Church services and Stations of the Cross. But I have instead decided to visit the sick in hospital, the house-bound, the cancer-stricken, the drug addict, the lonely and the abandoned.

It is a different experience. Each of those who are visited yearns to be comforted, or at least be heard out. Each has his/her own story to narrate. Some stories may be unique, and one is struck with awe, as one fact after the other tumbles out. Some are ordinary and are run of the mill. They sound like complaints, and one has heard them many times before.

Lent is that time when one offers a patient hearing, a shoulder to cry upon, a compassionate hug and a warm handshake. No, not alms. I do not believe in doling out cash. I would prefer giving alms to the Missions. I believe giving money only ruins the situation, and allows the victim to go out to buy more vices.

There is no medical help for loneliness or depression. Every visit to a lonely person gives me hope. The fact that I am welcomed with a 'tooth broken' smile, the fact that the person holds your hand warmly, and repeats what has been told to you many times before. It is what I call sessions in remembrance, of memories of old. Of how life was, and what it has become. The narration revolves around the joys, sorrows and tribulations of growing up in what was then thought to be a 'challenging world'. About how a clutch of children were brought up, educated and married off, only to be abandoned in the sunset years. How dreams crystallised, one at a time, and the unthinkable was achieved. Yes, they want to share their life stories. The parting is painful, and only an assurance of another visit is reassuring.

Drug addicts are another special group of people I love to spend time with. While our perception of drug addicts may be warped, some of them are educated and hail from 'respected' families. The reasons why they have taken up drugs vary. Some do it on an experimental basis, while others due to peer pressure. What is most shocking is the fact that many take it as an escape route, due to the constant nagging and fights in the family. The stress of a divorce or a separation or an extramarital affair leads to trying out 'party drugs'. The refrain "Nobody understands me" is constant. They need a friend to understand the situation they find themselves in. Lent is that period when quality time can be spent with those who are depressed and need a shoulder to cry.

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