Always a Neighbor

A friend of mine told me of an experience he had recently. He was feeling quite sick one day, and so he went to the clinic for what turned out to be an upper respiratory infection. He couldn’t see the regular doctor, who was booked up, so the office staff set him up with another. It turned out that my friend had met this other doc before, whom he described as a kind, gentle man with a positive spirit, enhanced by a comforting lilting Irish accent.

He checked my friend over and made his diagnosis, giving him a prescription along with counsel to rest and so on. As they were talking, he discovered that my friend worked for hospice. Well, the physician told him that his wife happens to be a hospice patient, with end-stage ovarian cancer. It also turns out that my friend had encountered his wife before she got sick, in several care settings. She is a lovely Irish Catholic lady who has devoted her life to visiting the sick and caring for the unfortunate; one of those rare people that just breathes encouragement, comfort, and affirmation into every situation she enters.

The doctor’s halting words made it obvious that he needed to talk. So, the patient found himself extending his stay in the examination room quite a bit past the usual perfunctory exam and wrap-up. After the doc told how his wife was doing, my friend asked about him, how he was coping and getting along.

“Well,” he said, “she’s handling it a lot better than I am. She seems to have accepted things, and I’ve told her that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to be pissed off.” He chuckled at the same time a tear slipped down his reddened cheek. That was a surprisingly revealing, personal comment for a physician to make to a patient. My friend said he felt honored that the doctor was comfortable enough to share it with him.

After talking for a while more, they parted and my friend asked him to give his dear wife a greeting, wishing both of them help and blessings from God. The physician for his part indicated that it had been good to talk. Little had this suffering friend of mine expected that a trip to the doctor for his needs would turn into an opportunity to minister to the doctor for his needs.

We may punch in and out of work. We may leave the worship service, having offered our praise and thanksgiving.  We may put appointments on our calendars and make our To-Do lists and plan our agendas, checking things off as we complete them. But as human beings, we are never “off the clock.” All around us people are going through situations few imagine or understand. God may lead you or me, at any time, to help someone. Every road we walk leads to Jericho.

It is always time to listen to and love your neighbor.

12 thoughts on “Always a Neighbor

  1. I’ve noticed the same things as I get older John. Theology doesn’t mean as much to me. (It never mattered a lot to begin with!). Terrible theology can bring pain to people however, and does concern me. But loving those around me, letting my children and grandchildren know I love them, and being with Marge are of utmost importance today.

    Sitting down with friends with a roll and coffee and chatting before church is important. Wednesday night bible study with the pastor as we share the Word together is also.

    Sunday on the way out of church a man stopped me on the sidewalk, and told me how much his ninety-something mother loves my wife. He said his mother has very few clear memories these days, but she remembers Marge very clearly and talks about her constantly. And this is because of the a friendship she cultivated with this lady and for staying in touch even as she slips away. The man could barely hold back his tears when he was telling me this.

    And Gail, yes, living out the gospel does seem possible.


  2. Ditto on John’s comment, it is not where I live either…

    I appreciate what you have said here Chaplain Mike, it is not over my head, my heart gets it, and it reminds me to try & live my little life with love. Actually, this post makes living out the gospel seem possible…


  3. I saw this too. I was speechless and stunned. I also noted that not one of the people on stage spoke against it. To paraphrase the wisdom of Dorothy Sayers, one can expect people to do evil, but you know you’re in real trouble when people start redefining evil as good.

    The wise compassion of christlike people is needed now more than ever.


  4. Thanks for this reminder that we all need to be human and humane, open and listening, and that in being so we sometimes have the opportunity to be God’s hands and feet and eyes and ears.

    Much as I enjoy the posts and the debate on theological controversies that get hundreds of comments, that’s not where I live. I don’t go home every day to my wife and think about how egalitarian or complementarian we are in our relationship. I don’t ask if my friend with a disabled son is a calvinist or arminian, pre-trib or post-trib or whatever. I just try to love and care for them as best I can, failing often but still trying by God’s grace. The older I get the more convinced I become that God’s focus, and God’s desire for our focus, is on the very human ways of showing his care and love to others.


  5. I was there twice today. It’s invigorating to know you simply listened. No hidden aggendas. No impatient waiting. No know-it-all advice. Just listened because someone needed to lament.


  6. I am so distressed. Last night, for the first time, I witnessed something I have never seen before in an audience of Americans gathered for a political debate.

    A candidate was asked,
    ‘Should an uninsured man who is comatose be given life-saving care.
    The candidate replied ‘Yes’.

    But then the audience shouted ‘No’ and ‘Let him die’

    They were bold about it, and laughed and those who said those things were cheered by the others in the audience.

    And I thought . . . well, I didn’t know what to think . . . . I didn’t realize that things had got so bad that there were a whole segment of Americans who felt that way about medically vulnerable people.

    I didn’t realize.
    And I am fearful of these people.


  7. There is so much suffering and grief and turmoil just beneath the thin veneer of “normalcy” in all or lives.

    I don’t make a very good effort at getting to know most of the people that I come in contact with. But I think maybe I’ll try a bit better to find out ‘how the world is treating these folks’. With the aim to speak a word or two of comfort, and a word about the One who came that we might know that He loves us and that He is not content to leave us in our suffering, alone. And that one Day, all our tears will be wiped away…forever.

    Thanks, Chaplain Mike.


  8. I had a similar with a funeral director last week while riding to and from a cemetery. We always need to be ready to listen, to be God’s ears.


  9. I can’t remember what I was watching, but one person was being very forthcoming with many personal details. Catching himself he said “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.” The response was simple: “Perhaps because I’m listening.” We are all guilty of not listening, even when it seems like we are. Instead of listening we’re often just waiting for our turn to speak. Being a good neighbor sometimes requires nothing more than being receptive.


  10. HI Chaplain Mike,

    I can’t access the link to send you an email–it’s a problem on my end–but I wanted to send you this link.

    Some old friends have a daughter who has a chronic illness and created these decorations for her IV poles. Given your line of work, I thought you might be interested in these to help brighten up the rooms of your patients– especially the picture frames or the white boards.

    I’m not a salesperson or anything, I just thought it was a cool idea.


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