This week at Sanctuary we heard the story of the Widow’s Mite: Jesus is at the Temple and observes rich people dropping large sums in the offering box, and a poor widow who puts in the two smallest coins going at the time. Jesus tells His disciples that the Widow has given the most – everything she has – while the Rich have given only a small amount of their surplus. Giving out of your surplus always grabs me with this story. The notion that giving and remaining comfortable isn’t much to write home about – the real magic comes by giving even when it causes discomfort.
Buckle your seatbelt for a rocky segue here, but this struck me as relevant to a story in the news this week, that one in four Australians feel lonely. We are less connected than we were – particularly to our neighbours – and that has serious impact on our mental and physical health. Loneliness in modern society takes such a toll that the UK has appointed a Minister for Loneliness, and there are calls for us to follow suit Down Under.
I’m not being smart when I say that to be more connected, we actually have to connect more. And that is DRAINING. Who really wants to hover in the driveway asking your neighbour about their grandchildren when there’s groceries to take inside? Or make chit chat in the work lunch room or with strangers at the playground? Or head to church on Sunday, which inconveniently is always right at the end of one busy week and the start of a new one?
But this is where the Widow’s Mite comes in. It made me think, what if the currency of the lesson was not coins, but social connection? If we stay connected only with our established friends, or people we have lots in common with, we are connecting (read: giving) but still remaining comfortable. We are only giving of our surplus. The magic happens when we give to social connection even when it is uncomfortable – when we forge initial discomfort into community.
A good case study to back up this theory is that of Compassionate Frome in England – by very intentionally forging community ties for those with poor health, this town saw emergency hospital admissions fall by 17 percent, while the trend across the rest of Somerset was to increase by 29 percent.
If you’re intrigued, have a think about what two mites you could give to build stronger connections and community. It could be actually heading out to that choir, or book club, or sports match, when there’s Netflix to watch or just a busy household to keep running. Or actually introduce yourself to that person you often see around town, or getting out of your car and off your phone when your waiting to pick someone up on the chance you can say g’day to someone else waiting too. Or as simple as smiling and commenting on the weather to everyone you pass on the street.
I know I have been giving from my surplus socially lately – I’m going to try all of the above this week.
Peace and pleasantries to you all,
(Me again! Alison back next week.)
PS. In one of those self-knots that anxiety expertly ties, the lonelier we are, the less we feel equipped to connect. None of the above is meant to undermine or shame that very real struggle. Some good tips and resources for working through it here.
Photo credit: Lucy Hodson.