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Could you have taken Eleanor Rigby to Church?

09 May 2022 | Written by By Peter Slee

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, it’s good to reflect on how we are doing, as well as how we can support others who are, maybe, struggling.

I recently listened to a podcast in which Sir Paul McCartney talked about the origins of his song, ‘Eleanor Rigby’. He explained that he used to meet older folk in his community when he participated in “Bob-a-Job week” (do you remember that?) and he formed a bond with one particular lady whom he visited regularly – even doing her shopping. He used to sit in her kitchen as she talked about her life and he says:

“Just hearing her stories enriched my soul.”

This was the lady that gave him the idea for the song, though she had a different name.

I’m sure you can sing the lyrics with me, as we recall that the song features two lonely people: Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. Both are isolated, one waiting longingly at the window, the other preparing a sermon that no-one will hear.

I was reflecting on this imaginary scene and wondered how this could have been transformed. 

If only there had been some kind neighbour who could have accompanied Eleanor to church…

I realised that, in such a scenario, not only would Eleanor have some company and an opportunity to get out – even reconnecting with her local church – but the priest may have felt all his care in preparing a sermon was not wasted.

I think this simple act of compassion could have made a significant difference to the mental health of both of them.

However, what occurred to me as I reflected further, was that the very act of reaching out to another person is likely to have made a difference to the wellbeing of the kind neighbour.

As someone who has had some ups and downs in my own mental health, I am conscious that such a simple act of kindness can be very costly – sometimes requiring a significant amount of emotional energy. However, what I have also discovered is that such an investment is likely to reap dividends in terms of my own sense of achievement and self-worth.

Mental health is not something that has many quick fixes and even when we think we’re on the way up, we can easily crash or slide back down. 

However, here’s one suggestion for those of you who are finding life a bit challenging at the moment:

Think about those around you who are, perhaps, feeling isolated and ask them if they’d like you to pop in for a chat or maybe go out for a walk or visit somewhere like a garden centre for a mooch and a cup of coffee.

You could not only make their day, but also give your wellbeing a bit of boost and maybe you could enrich one another’s souls with your stories!

Peter Slee has recently retired from a senior position with a charitable care provider in a chaplaincy role. Peter has also held positions of responsibility as a Baptist minister, and a retail manager, in varied contexts. Retirement, which came sooner than expected, has given him the opportunity to develop his photographic and artistic inclinations (landscape photography, lino-printing and dabbling in acrylic painting). His 3 grandchildren also bring him great joy. 

Peter is one our pastoral specialists at The Joy Club, alongside Caroline Dobinson, who run our ‘Listening Ear’ support group sessions. You can find out more about these meetings here

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