In response to the Pope’s call, our team went out there and reached out to John (not his real name) to find out more about his story and what has been going on in his life. John took the brave step of quitting his corporate job with an airlines company during the Covid-19 situation last year. Many of his friends then did not understand the reason for his decision and they cautioned him that it would be “impossible to find a job” during such times.
Though he initially struggled to find a job, John shared that throughout his job search, he knew and trusted that God was with him. He initially found a job at a private school. However, things didn’t quite work out.
Eventually, he found a subsequent job at a community care service centre that caters to a wide range of individuals including school children, teenagers and the elderly.
John now helps to oversee programmes at the centre. He shared that he had always known in his heart that he wanted to be in social service, even when he was younger. Though, he did not have the opportunity to do so until now.
During the home visitations, John was very heartened to see how the work that he does can make a difference to the lives of others. He feels especially drawn to the plight of the elderly. He is aware that the elderly tend to be distrustful of strangers. Therefore, to see the elderly welcome the social workers and their willingness to share about their lives with the social workers is what really touches John.
Through outreach, John shared that these individuals know that they are not alone and that there are others who are looking out for them.
Seeing God’s hand at work every day, John feels “empowered to do” what the Lord has asked him to do. “We all have different gifts which can be used in different ways,” said John.
When trying to reach out to others, he shared that it is most crucial to “really listen to them” as sometimes we might be too caught up with “talking” and that the voices of the individuals that we are listening to might “get pushed down.” Be interested in what they have to share and lend them a listening ear. “Let them know that what they say is valued. Engage them fully and do not be distracted.”
While we may not be able to reach out to everyone out there, John’s suggestion is that if there is a particular group of persons that we would like to reach out to, we can find out more about the organisations that are involved in such work and see how we can contribute.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, where individuals may feel more anxious and lonely than ever, is there someone that God might be prompting you to reach out to eg. seniors, neighbours, family relatives or friends?
It might be something as simple as lending them a listening ear or seeing if they need help to buy their groceries or daily meals for example? If so, make that first step and the outcome might surprise you.
How can we reach out to others?
- Listen to them. Sometimes we might be too caught up with talking that the voices of the individuals that we are listening to might “get pushed down”. Instead, be interested in what they have to share and lend them a listening ear. Let them know that what they say is valued. Engage them fully and do not be distracted.
- Identify who to reach out to. While we may not be able to reach out to everyone out there, we can find out more about the organisations that are involved in such work and see how we can contribute.
- Start with those around you. Mother Teresa said, “And we will really believe, we will begin to love. And we will love naturally, we will try to do something. First in our own home, next door neighbour in the country we live, in the whole world.” Look within your families, extended families, workplace, communities for a start.
Here are the reflections of the team members who interviewed John including how they felt about the interview and outreach process.
What struck me when I listened to John’s story was his great trust in the Lord during his job switch. As Singaporeans, often we want to be at the driver’s seat when it comes to making the major decisions in our lives. However, I am beginning to learn that it is so much more important to trust in God and to be able to discern His Will for us instead.
In this aspect, I think John has given us a timely reminder and it is important that we feel a sense of peace and calm knowing that God is with us even amid life’s storms.
After speaking to John, I realised the question that was posed, ‘Do we reach out enough?’ struck a chord within me.
His sharing brought me back to a time where I was volunteering at a hospice as a van escort. After day care, I had to accompany an elderly man back to his flat in Toa Payoh.
As I walked him back to his flat, I sensed that he didn’t want me to leave. He was on medication and was probably afraid of being alone. At that point, I felt his fear and frustration. Even though he did not say it, I felt his fear of dying alone – that sense of ‘What if something happens to me, and I can’t contact anyone?’
I wanted to stay with him but I had to leave, to take care of the other seniors in the van, waiting to be sent home as well.
This incident remains vividly with me to this day.
Perhaps it is even more necessary, in this time of the Covid-19 situation, to reach out to those we know who might be living alone.
In our busy lives, we are exhausted by the demands of work and our other commitments. Yet, maybe a simple ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ or ‘Been thinking of you… just checking in…’ might be enough to initiate the conversation as we encounter other people around us.
Sometimes, we just need to reach out to others to show that they are not forgotten, and that we care.
In his interview, John mentioned that in reaching out to others, it is about being present and interested in the lives of the ones we speak to. This statement resonated with me because I ask myself how often am I physically, mentally and emotionally present.
Perhaps in reaching out to others, it also requires us to be what Jesus is to us in our own struggles or moments of loneliness. Perhaps in us reaching out, it is more about “being there” first, like Mary Magdalene, instead of solely being task-oriented like Martha.
Main photo: During this Covid-19 pandemic, where individuals may feel more anxious and lonely than ever, is there someone that God might be prompting you to reach out to?