I open the windows of the publications sale booth. Services are due to begin, and people are arriving. They are stamping snow off their shoes, looking around for someone they would like to see, pulling off their coats.
I am sitting in the booth, observing the view in front of me. Some people are standing and waiting for their spouses to hang up their coats. Parents are taking off their children’s snowsuits. Some people are striding directly to their familiar places in the pew. Young girls have gathered together, keeping an eye on the door: as soon as all of their friends have come, they walk in a long line into the sanctuary. There is a buzz of conversation, greetings. Some people even nod at me as they pass the booth on their way toward the coat racks or the bathrooms. Behind the window of the booth I feel myself a bystander.
– So you came, I hear the relief and joy in the little boy’s voice.
I suddenly feel myself painfully lonesome. It is important to have friends who make us want to come to services.
I remember from my own youth how hesitant I felt about going to services if I was uncertain about finding someone to be with. For a long time I tagged along with my older sister, so I would not need to fear being alone. I was shy with people and had my feelers out for whether or not I could feel accepted by the group. I am an introvert person, and I sometimes find the social activity at services a little too much. It seems I do not know how to be relaxed and sociable, though some people are naturally like that.
While I was studying in Oulu, my shyness stood out even more in the big congregation. My friends and I always sat in the same part of the sanctuary, so we could find each other easily. I felt safer in company. I still had the same old fear: can I just be myself, am I good enough like this, can I do things well enough? I do not remember if I prayed for a friend, but I was happy to have some. I seldom needed to go home by myself after services.
Later on I thought that if I had a spouse and a family, I would not need to wonder about who to sit with at services. I would be more often invited to visit people, I would not need to face the miserable prospect of going to an empty home after services. Now that I am older, this feeling is not so poignant any more. I enjoy the peace and quiet of my own company.
The services end and I see the people pass into the opposite direction. They are taking their coats and putting on their hats. Young people are standing in a circle. Mothers and fathers have joined in cheerful conversation while the little ones are hovering around them. They are clearly talking about where to go for a visit. I cannot join in anything, because I am standing behind a glass wall, isolated from the others.
After some time I assume there will be no more customers and close the door. The hall is almost empty. It is still early, and I would like to go and spend time with someone. Having been in the booth all the time, I feel I need company. Some of my friends are still there, but they seem to be tired and just want to go home.
The feeling of loneliness that I had when I was young invades my mind: should I just go home by myself and spend the long evening listening to the hum of the refrigerator? I decide to go and see my mother in the nursing home. My sister is also there, and I can share my painful feelings with her. Soon after that I get a text message from my brother, who would like to come and visit us with his family. My evening ends up being full of life.
Text: Aulikki Piirainen
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
Raamatun mukaan jokainen Jumalan valtakunnan jäsen on avoin lähetyskirje omassa toimintaympäristössään (2. Kor. 3:2–3). Tämä asia voi olla kipupiste uskovaiselle ihmiselle, sillä henkilökohtaisesta uskosta puhumiselle on korkea kynnys nyky-yhteiskunnassa.