Like almost everyone in the Western world, I read a few stories about Robin Williams and his death in the past few weeks. You almost couldn’t help it. There were articles about it, and then more articles, and then there were articles about articles about it. I found, however, that the most important comments came not from the columnists, but from the comments boxes.
If I had to summarize the dozens of comments that I read, it would be this: many people are suffering terribly from depression. I knew that depression was common, but it seems to be more widespread than I thought. One of the scary parts of this is that depression is often so well-hidden; outward expressions of happiness often mask inward suffering. The private crosses we carry are often very heavy, and much of the time, they never splinter off to those around us.
Sometimes people attribute depression to one particular cause over another, whether it is psychological, spiritual, physical, or mental. But in so many cases, it seems we just don’t know the cause. Though common denominators may not exist, I would guess that a recurring thought among many sufferers of depression is that they are unloved and uncared for. I am not an expert on depression, but I wonder as a layman if at least some depression can be alleviated by helping others know that they are cared for and loved.
Christianity compels each of us to let people know, in no uncertain terms: “I do love you, and I do care.” We Catholics need to do a better job conveying that, and not with mere words, but with actions that illustrate our love and caring. That is not meant to be an indictment—hundreds of Catholic hospitals and countless other institutions are monuments to love and caring. But it is certainly meant to be a challenge, starting with a challenge to myself. I need to do a better job of letting everyone know that I love them and care for them. We all do.
It is said that a man once asked Jesus how much he loved him, and Jesus responded: “This much.” And Jesus stretched out His hands on the cross and died.
In a way, the whole world asks the same question of us each and every day: ”How much do you love me?” And every single day of our lives, we provide an answer. Did we pray for the people of the world today, especially the ones who do not know Christ and His mercy? Did we give to their support? Did we offer words of kindness and friendship to strangers? Jesus told and showed us that love is a definitive attribute of Christianity. We need to live up to His challenge.
To those around us, we face a more immediate form of the question: “How much do you love me?” Our little children used to ask Lisa and I this when they were very little. They don’t say the words any more, but in their hearts, I know that they are still asking that question.
I still remember Lisa walking down the aisle, her gaze fixed on me, as I stood in wonder, waiting for her by the altar. I didn’t recognize it then, but now I see the question that her eyes were asking: “How much do you love me?” I want each day of my life to be the answer she was looking for.
I want each day of my life to answer well the question the world asks of every Christian: “How much do you love me?”
People with depression problems should seek help, and help is available. And while I’m not a professional, I pray that loving much is at least part of the solution.
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