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.