When we lived in Wisconsin, I spent about a year providing in-home family therapy in Milwaukee County for “troubled children and youth” and their families. Often it was the families that were troubled, with children and youth in need of consistency and love. One of the saddest situations involved a family of four, mom, dad, older son/stepson (age 10) who was the identified patient, and younger son (age 3).
Dad was unemployed, having suffered a significant back injury on the job. He needed to have surgery, and during one of my in-home visits, I asked what support they had to make things easier during that time. Was there someone who could take care of the younger child on the day of surgery? Did they have family or friends or a church that could help with meals?
No, on all counts. The older son would go to school that morning and then spend a few days with his birth mother (to the parent’s great relief). The three-year-old would spend the day in the hospital waiting room with his mom. No one, not neighbors or family members, would provide a meal or meals. They had no church and couldn’t conceive of “one of those places” helping out like that. It brings tears to my eyes as I write about it.
I have never been a part of a church that didn’t reach out and help members in those times of need: cards, prayers, and meals, assistance with child care during births, accidents, illnesses and grief. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this caring since before I can remember. It is inconceivable to me that it was inconceivable to them.
In the New Testament the Greek word that in English is translated “one another” occurs 100 times. In 59 of those instances, specific instructions are given about how (and how not) to relate to one another. “Love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, pray for one another, encourage and build up one another, be hospitable to one another” are just a few examples.
I am much more comfortable to be on the giving end of the stick. I have been called “self-sufficient” more than once. There is a certain pride that goes with self-sufficiency, I must confess. But I have learned over time that one of the greatest gifts we can give others is the gift of receiving their love and care. I am not looking forward to having surgery, but for the first time in my life, I am grateful for the opportunity to receive care from others.
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” (1 Peter 3:8) ~ Anne
PS to my family: you can remind me of these words when I get antsy and frustrated.
These meditations are provided as a ministry in this time of pandemic as a ministry of St. Paul’s U. C. C.