Sydney is certainly a vibrant and live city. It’s loved by many people around the world, and a hot tourist spot. I’ve met many people from other countries who seem in awe of we Australians, lucky to have such a wonderful city.
While there are millions of people living here, there are some who live in the depth of despair and poverty. We know that, but somehow the fact gets pushed into the background. Back in 2012 the media reported a tragic event that shocked many people. A skeleton of a 62-year-old man was found in one of the 600 apartments of the largest public housing estate in the southern hemisphere—at the Waterloo housing commission block, where no-one had noticed he wasn’t around anymore. He lived in a one-bedroom unit, and his neighbour thought he had gone away.
How terribly sad! The government can’t really look after so many people, especially those who close themselves away, and choose to keep to themselves. The situation at Waterloo is not new, and the death of this 62-year-old man has been repeated in other Australian cities and across the world. It’s not really surprising when you remember that one-in-five households contain only one adult. Did you know that? That neighbour across the road from you may live on his/her own, because of personal choice. But that doesn’t mean they should be avoided.
The Story Of A Grieving Father
We are living increasingly isolated lives because of fear, technology, busyness, and fractured families. And there is always potential for people dying alone, in their homes or units, left to decompose until someone else notices the odour of rotting flesh. Why don’t we care for each other more? It was Mother Teresa of Calcutta who said that loneliness and the feeling of being uncared-for and unwanted are the greatest poverty.
A few years ago, the press carried a heart-rending story of a young father who shot himself in a hotel telephone booth. James Lee had called a Chicago newspaper and told a reporter he had sent the paper a manila envelope outlining his story. The reporter frantically tried to trace the call, but was too late. When the police arrived the young man was slumped in the booth with a bullet through his head.
In his pockets they found a child’s crayon drawing, much folded and worn. On it was written, “Please leave in my coat pocket. I want to have it buried with me.” The drawing was signed in childish print by his daughter, Shirley Lee, who had perished in a fire just five months before. Lee was so grief-stricken he had asked total strangers to attend his daughter’s funeral so she would have a nice service. He said there was no family to attend, since Shirley’s mother had been dead since the child was two.
Speaking to the reporter before his death, the heartbroken father said that all he had in life was gone and he felt so alone. He gave his modest estate to the church Shirley had attended and said, “Maybe in ten or twenty years, someone will see one of the plaques and wonder who Shirley Ellen Lee was and say, Someone must have loved her very, very much.” The grieving father could not stand loneliness or the loss so he took his own life. He felt it better to be dead than live in an impersonal world.
Let’s Be Aware Of Others’ Suffering
How many James Lees are there in this world? They don’t wear signs saying I’m lonely—will you help me? Many are lonely as the result of the loss of a loved one, marriage breakdown, depression that is not treated, or just wanting one friend to speak to sometimes.
- And what about those who live troubled lives?
- Do we care about them?
- Do we look beyond their faults and see their need?
- When we look at them what do we see?
Billy Graham used to say, “We must never minimize the suffering of another”. And that is very true. You don’t know what another person is going through at this moment. There could be immense pain and anguish. The Bible says in Luke 6:36 “Have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you”. And they are the words of Jesus Christ.