True “Friends to the Broken-Hearted”
I walked slowly towards the simple door of an unassuming, yet historically detailed, beautiful building covered in ivy. Gathering my typical newspaper gear—notebook, pen, press pass, and camera—I brushed a hand down to quickly smooth my standard go-to outfit for interviews: black pants and a black sweater. My pamphlet of information detailing this modest charity, on which I was about to write a small article, was as straightforward as my outfit and reporter’s tools. Like most charities, this one seemed full of the usual, albeit wonderful, list of good deeds accomplished, complete with a meaningful, compassionate slogan, reading “We are Friends to the Broken-Hearted.” This should be a great piece, I thought to myself. It will be positive for the reader, hopefully benefit the community at large, and be easy to write. Then I knocked lightly, the door was opened, and I met Lindy Morelli. Very shortly, like falling into a well from what I was to who I now am, I knew that my life would never again be exactly the same, and that neither would that of anyone who read my article and also contacted Morelli. It unfortunately now became strikingly apparent to me that writing about this amazing woman and her organization, Lighthouse, would not be quite so “easy.”
It is a fact that meeting certain people can immediately change you for the better. In small ways or large, if you barely notice, or if it hits you like a truck, this happens throughout life. A person may have done extraordinary things, thus prompting you to be a bit more exemplary yourself. Someone may be so intelligent that they guide you to think in pathways you never would have found on your own. An individual may just simply be so funny, engaging, or empathetic that they change that particular day, or even just a tiny fragment of your life and make it bearable, or even delectable. Well, on account of that first encounter and our subsequent 70-plus emails back-and-forth, Morelli has affected me in many such ways, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
I will now attempt to illustrate what Morelli’s stellar personality at the helm of Lighthouse’s beautiful mission accomplishes for the public, and what we, the people of Scranton, can do to help in return.
During a lengthy interview, Morelli made me feel more like a close friend stopping by for a visit than a complete stranger invading her space and time with questions and flashbulbs. This must be an especially hard task for a member of the blind community: to readily open the door every day to those whom you do not yet know and cannot see, and to have the faith to set vulnerability aside.
Born prematurely with her twin, Morelli has been blind since shortly after birth, as the result of receiving too much oxygen in an incubator. However, this fact has never held her, or her outreach efforts, back. “Since I was young,” she attests, “I always wanted to dedicate myself to spiritual pursuits.” Thus, to begin such pursuits, she took a vow of poverty (her definition: “depending on God for that which sustains me”) 24 years ago as a devoted Carmelite. As she explains, “The Carmelites are a Catholic religious group that is devoted to prayer and to growing in love, as we pray for the needs of the world.” And, indeed, Morelli does care about the ENTIRE world—not just those who are Catholic, or even Christian. Whatever a person’s personal truth, be it religious, agnostic, or atheist, a person can take solace in her guidance and healing without fear that she will try to enact her own beliefs upon them. A truly rare person, she believes that “all world religions have universal values,” and that “we all, as human beings, have similar questions, even though the stories take different shapes.” Even when asked to take a stance on tough, hot-button issues like abortion, she does not pass judgement. “As a friend once said,” she states peacefully, “Who knows if God wouldn’t be merciful enough to understand people’s circumstances? . . . The God I believe in is a kind and merciful one.”
Morelli began the nonprofit (in fact, largely entirely non-funded) Lighthouse Christian Recovery Outreach program by personally going into low-income housing projects to offer support, guidance, and assistance to mothers. The organization then evolved into a day center with support groups for depression, eating disorders, and a host of other ailments, where she lent her ear and heart as a professionally-trained counselor. In 2004, the brave Morelli, simply through “dependence on divine providence, day by day,” as she explains, was able to purchase the current Lighthouse building to use as a home and refuge for individuals in crisis, including refugees, ex-convicts, and those with substance abuse or emotional challenges.
With the departure of the last resident, however, the past year has brought significant changes to the charity. As stated in a recent newsletter, “The shape of Lighthouse has gone through a significant shift. We are no longer hosting a residence for those in crisis, and I do minimal personal counseling, probably only two or three counseling appointments a week. In its place, I have several people who come here for spiritual guidance; this ministry helps people to know themselves better, and it helps them to see how God (if God is a part of their belief system) is working in their unique situation and individual lives.” Having had a hard life herself, Morelli truly believes the importance of such guidance, relaying that “Spiritual pain is more existential and harder to understand than physical pain—it can involve depths of pain that can’t be addressed [ourselves]. The longing we have for fulfillment and peace can be very deep, a very spiritual thing.”
Besides counseling and guidance/companionship, Morelli offers a variety of other healing tools. The newsletter reads, “I also have received several certificates in natural healing modalities, so that I can offer comfort, and gentle healing options to people who are in pain. Several people come here with back problems, sinus problems, anxiety, stress, and a host of other problems, which they seek relief from. I am able to help them find healing through the use of flower essences, prayer, essential oils, and other healing techniques, which bring balance and integration to the whole person, body, mind, and spirit.” She is also a trained “death doula,” and offers consolation and ease of transition to the dying and their families, whether it be by playing harp or another instrument, prayer, counseling, or by simply fluffing pillows and offering to listen.
“Lighthouse is not about developing a business for business’ sake. It’s about using my talents and abilities to help people,” Morelli strives to make clear.
“You inspire me deeply as you somehow manage to keep your wit, humor, and sense of balance intact, whilst helping those in deepest need. Please tell me what we in Scranton can do to help you for once,” I beg, expecting a meek refusal.
Yet delightfully, Morelli relays exactly what she and Lighthouse need for further survival, without pause, explaining with a laugh the quick answer (my favorite lines of hers), “You can’t be blind and shy at the same time. Otherwise, you’ll never get what you need!”
So Scranton, the simple needs of this beautiful woman and organization, which I think we can easily collectively provide, are these: a few more counseling or healing appointments a week—at only $20 per session (or a sliding fee for those with low incomes); donations, however small, as Lighthouse itself receives no steady monthly grants or income from any source; and desperately required volunteers/companions to help her simply read mail, take walks, get to church, or sit and talk.
As for the last request, she notes, “A walk or glass of tea means so much. They [volunteers] don’t realize they’re doing so much, but an hour is like gold to me.”
To contact Lighthouse and Lindy Morelli for an appointment or to volunteer, call
(570) 341–5858. Donation checks are tax deductible, and can be written out to Lindy Morelli and sent to Lighthouse in Scranton Inc., PO Box 199, Scranton, PA 18504