HE lonely old people of Germany, elderly couples and childless widows, are the target of a nation-wide campaign whose motto is "Spare time for your neighbour".
Running the campaign is "Community Action", an organization founded in 1958 by a group of West Germans who deplored the decline in civil responsibility.
From the beginning, Catholic organizations have been associated with the movement. which promotes a fundamental principle of the Catholic idea of society, that power and responsibility should be decentralized as far as is practical.
A leader of the present campaign, Dr WhilheIm Abs, director of Berlin's German Catholic Charities Organization, points out that the emphasis is not on financial help but understanding. "We do not ask for money". he said; "although we need it urgently. We are looking for helpful people".
German advertisers are giving the campaign free publicity, and Mrs. Luebke, wife of the German President, is its honorary president. Through it the old will learn to solve their problems of loneliness, and will acquire a sense of purpose.
The first appeal issued by the movement, in 1959, was called "Help the housewife" and was designed to help the urban house-vile to deal with the nervous and physical strain that affects her by suggesting ways to make her life more satisfying.
Since then, Community Action has sponsored two more successful experiments in personal initiative. One of these, a drive to persuade German families to accept foreign students for Christmas in their homes. is likely to become an annual feature of German life.
As part of the other experiment, which was an attempt to alleviate the severe shortage of hospital personal. Catholic youth organizations recruited girls as "Sunday nurses" and special courses were started for volunteers. Mrs. Luebke herself helped out at a Bonn hospital.
"One of our most urgent tasks." said President Luebke, " is to arouse in all citizens the will to make an active contribution to the common good."