"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured." Kurt VonnegutI intended to write about a snow climb that I had earlier in the week, but after a week that was filled with bearing witness to loneliness and loss, my mind won't let me go there.
Summary of my climbing/hiking week: I climbed 2 mountains this week. It was enjoyable. The end.
After work on Thursday, I ditched my usual University Mountain/Mount Sentinel hike and joined up with Interim Youth Director Dave Massey and 4 students from First Pres. Youth Group for homeless outreach. The group meets weekly for an hour to walk the streets of Missoula chatting with street folks - panhandlers, transients and the homeless - while providing hand warmers, snacks and conversation. You may be thinking "evangelists" and "Bible-pushers", but in the immortal words of my nephew "stop doing that!". The group is about loving on people regardless of their appearance, socio-economic status or station in life and fighting that "terrible disease of loneliness". Period.
Loneliness. What if anti-loneliness thoughts drove our actions? What if instead of 'anti-loneliness' we talked about 'inclusion' and undiscriminating 'love'? What if we focused on learning more about others and so doing learned more about ourselves? How we think, feel and love.
Though this may seem - and, in fact, is - counterintuitive to this blog, I gave up hiking for lent (well not entirely). Two days a week I substitute what would have been hikes with people-time: coffee with friends, homeless outreach, catching up with the HS youth group students. The exercise has proven fruitful in its first full week, allowing for a life-giving homeless outreach outing and an opportunity to reconnect with two of my favorite thinkers Aaron McPeck and Brian Marsh over gelato at Cafe Dolce. If lent is about getting closer to God through sacrifice and the examination of vices than "call me maybe". I have no idea what that means, but truly, I have seen the face of something of greater purity and honesty in the faces of the friends and strangers this week. It defies logic. Linds, my girlfriend, also defies logic. She appears always on the leading edge of something pure and honest that defies my sense of logic. At once it induces joy and beckons humility.
The point of all of that is this: I learned this week through homeless outreach, lent, Jesus and Kurt Vonnegut that loneliness is a loathsome disease and through people (relationships, authentic relationships) and the conception of the interconnectedness of all things - some sort of god - we may be closer to the cure than previously thought.