It has been over two years since we were first introduced to COVID. Who would have guessed that we would still be dealing with this pandemic? Initially, I believed that it was a “one and done” virus and that we would soon return to our normal lives. How wrong I was. I never dreamed that we would be masked up and social distancing two years after its initial outbreak. I am now convinced that it is here to stay. I am in awe at the fear COVID has instilled within so many...the fear of sickness, hospitalizations, deaths, and lifestyle changes. Perhaps the biggest fear it has caused for many of us is the fear of loneliness. At first, large gatherings were canceled, family events were discouraged, and many social events were frowned upon. Today, precautions have relaxed, but they have not gone away. The fear of becoming lonely still lurks on the horizon.
Loneliness is not caused by others...it is when your mind tells you that nobody cares about you. A man once said, “I don’t have an answering machine. I live alone, and I know that I miss a few calls. My friends tell me that I should get an answering machine, but I won’t. I don’t want to come home to find the message light not blinking. I don’t want to know with such certainty that no one tried to get in touch.”
This is clearly one of our biggest fears...finding the message light not blinking. Mother Teresa described loneliness as “the biggest disease of our time” (maybe even bigger than COVID). And she went on to say that the loneliest do not all reside in nursing homes, nor do they all live by themselves.
It is understandable how one weary traveler felt as he sat alone on the edge of his bed in his motel room. He reached for the Bible in the drawer and opened it. Inside was a page that said, “If you are lonely, read Psalms 23 & 27.” Just below the reference, somebody wrote by hand, “If you are still lonesome, call Mandy at 255-2567.” Well...Mandy is NOT the answer. Over time, loneliness gets inside us, and it doesn’t go away.
I recently read about the poet Rupert Brooke. He set out to travel by boat from England to America. Everyone on deck had someone there to see him or her off - everyone except him. Rupert Brooke felt lonely, terribly lonely. Watching the hugging and kissing and good-byes, he wished he had someone to miss him.
The poet saw a youngster and asked his name.
“William,” the boy answered.
“William,” he asked, “would you like to earn a few shillings?”
“Sure I would! What do I have to do?”
“Just wave to me as I leave,” the lonely man instructed.
It is said that money can’t buy love, but for six shillings, young William waved to Rupert Brooke as the boat pulled out. The poet wrote, “Some people smiled, and some cried, some waved white handkerchiefs, and some waved straw hats. And I? I had William, who waved at me with his red bandana for six shillings and kept me from feeling completely alone.” We are all lonely at times. But here was a man who was strong enough to admit his loneliness.
A lifetime is filled with moments of fear. The big question remains...how do we deal with fear? Many years ago, I owned a corvette. My wife and I enjoyed taking short trips and driving together through the Utah mountains. It was exhilarating taking the narrow curves at high speeds. On one occasion, my wife suggested that I was going too fast, cautioned me to slow down, and expressed that it terrified her. My response to her was, “Then do what I do - just close your eyes!”
Obviously, we can’t overcome fear by simply closing our eyes. Closing our eyes will not overcome the fear of speed, nor will it overcome the fear of loneliness. It has been said that “Loneliness is not lack of company...loneliness is lack of purpose.” Do we have a real purpose in our life? The Dalai Lama said, “our prime purpose in this life is to help others.” Someone else once said, “The one cure for loneliness is to carry the burden of another.” Helping others and carrying the burden of another...might this be the solution to overcoming the fear of being lonely?
A folktale tells of a monarch long ago who had twin sons. There was some confusion about which one was born first. As they grew to young manhood, the king sought a fair way to designate one of them as crown prince.
Calling them to his council chamber one day, he said, “My sons, the day will come when one of you must succeed me as king. The burdens of sovereignty are very heavy. To find out which of you is better able to bear them cheerfully, I am sending you together to a far corner of the kingdom. One of my advisors there will place equal burdens on your shoulders. My crown will one day go to the one who first returns bearing his burden like a king should.”
In a spirit of friendly competition, the brothers set out together. Soon they overtook a frail and aged woman struggling under a heavy weight. One of the boys suggested that they stop to help her. The other protested, “We have a burden of our own to worry about. Let us be on our way.”
So, the second son hurried on while the other stayed behind to help the woman with her load. On his journey to the kingdom’s edge, the same young man found others who needed help. A sightless man who needed assistance home, a lost child he carried back to her worried parents, a farmer whose wagon needed a strong shoulder to push it out of the mud.
Eventually, he did reach his father’s advisor, where he secured his own burden and started home with it safely on his shoulders. When he arrived back at the palace, his brother met him at the gate and greeted him with dismay. “I don’t understand,” the brother said, “I told Father the burden was too heavy to carry. How did you manage it alone?”
The future king replied thoughtfully, “I suppose when I helped others carry their burdens, I found the strength to carry my own.”
Isn’t this the secret to overcoming loneliness? When we help others carry their burdens, we also find the strength to carry our own. It may be a simple phone call or writing a note of encouragement. We will find that our burden will become easier and lighter, and soon we won’t even notice if the message light is blinking.
I experienced this firsthand a couple of months ago. It had been a very difficult morning. Larry and I had received some very disconcerting news about a Med One issue. I broke away from the office for a quick sandwich prior to an early afternoon meeting. I ordered my meal and patiently waited in the drive- through line. I was feeling a little despondent. Time constraints were haunting me as well as the stresses of life. I think I was beginning to feel a little lonely. As I approached the drive-through window, I held out my credit card. The cashier waved me off and said, “Sir... this is your lucky day. The car ahead of you paid for your meal.” I was humbled. I wanted to express my thanks for their thoughtfulness, but the car was gone. This kind gesture made my day. In some small way, it lightened my burden. I quickly decided the only way to say thank you was to “pay it forward.” I have repeated this gesture several times since that day. Each time I do it, I am buoyed up, and I know that I have lightened someone’s burden.
Lighten a burden and have a purpose – this is what Med One is all about. We have lightened the burdens of many. At Med One, we have a purpose. We improve patient outcomes, and we save lives. We will never know how many lives we have saved with our inventory of medical equipment. We do know, however, that we have made a huge difference. I know that many of our valued employees find real purpose in their jobs.
Our skilled biomed teams play a huge part in helping to lighten the burden of others. They focus on making certain that our equipment is clean, patient-ready, and functioning properly. They make a big difference in helping us save lives. Thank you to our biomed teams for the critical part you continue to play in our success.
Our dedicated delivery drivers also serve with purpose. They, too, help lighten the burdens of many. Day or night, rain or shine, 365 days a year...they remain committed to getting our equipment to patients in need. This team makes a huge difference in saving lives. Thank you to our drivers for your tenacious commitment to serving our customers.
Our operations team serves with a genuine purpose. Their efforts sometimes go without verbal recognition, but their focus is to also lighten the burdens of others. We hope they will never forget that their efforts are also about saving lives. They organize our offices, relocate our equipment, and play a critical role in making certain that we have equipment available. We express our thanks to them for helping Med One “make medical equipment available.”
It is my hope that each of us can find purpose in our lives. It is my hope that we can look for ways to lighten the burden of others. It is my hope that, as we reach out to help others, our own burdens will become lighter. It is my hope that we will never fear the message light not blinking. Being alone is good...but being lonely is the worst.