This phrase, which appears in a prayer I read many years ago, came to mind this morning as I was on my way out to run errands. Today, of course, is a day where these three groups of people are often forgotten in the celebration of romantic love, which, while understandably a good thing for some, is not quite the entire picture of love as we know it.
I came across this blog post yesterday in which the author addressed the way single people are treated in church contexts. This brought to mind a conversation I had two years ago with a church musician–a pastor in the United Church–who told me that he had difficulty finding assignments because he was single. Years ago, or even hours ago, I would have been overcome by bitterness on the subject, but then I was brought to mind of some of the people I knew who were single by choice. I met some of them almost three years ago. Still others were people who mentored me in school. I knew two more, both Episcopal priests, and both have been my mentors in theology. And then there were the nuns who used to live just across from my place. I sometimes wonder how they cope with the way society deals with single people, and persist in their calling.
I sometimes think that people who are single are witness in this sense to the kind of love which we ought to celebrate, the love that encompasses various states of live. It is a love whose fundamental commitment is to grow to one’s own fullness and to care for others’ needs as well as one’s own. And even, as I mentioned last year, we are not whole in other ways, we are witness to the generosity of grace that draws us together regardless of where we are. (I suppose I did mention that, but well, if I did not, I think you get the idea.) In other words, we witness to friendship.
I’d prefer to be surprised by the kind of love which makes me fall in love with someone else, not actively seek it. But I find more joy now, as I am learning to become more patient about some things, in the careful cultivation of love among friends.
In this sense, we remember those who are helpless, lonely, and unloved today because we believe it is through us that their hope, and indeed the love they need, can be found. There is a sense that being alone reveals one’s need for meaning; and there is a sense too that the resolution of that need is in the grace of friendship. So to those who are helpless, lonely, and unloved, I wish you love most of all.