Monday, December 20, 2004

A Truly Happy Holiday

I spend a great deal of time complaining about Christians who do not behave like Christians. But I thought at this time of year it would be good to talk a little about my personal encounters with Christians who do behave like Christians.

Feeding the Hungry – This Saturday my son and I worked with a local food bank handing out food to poor families. We were set up in a local community center where they had some nice man dressed as Santa Clause who gave each kid a small gift. After the families had a chance to visit with St. Nick (who, as you know was Saint Nicklaus, 4th century bishop of Myra who spoke at the Council of Nicea in 325AD) they signed in and were given a basked of food including a frozen turkey. We served over 200 families by sorting out the food and taking it out to their cars or the cars of whoever brought them.

I have a hard time working with poor people. Some people just have a run of bad luck and need a little help getting back on their feet - I can handle that. Others just keep making bad decisions over and over and over and over again. I have difficulty dealing with this especially when these folks have children who are caught in the middle. Fortunately I was not running the program, the program was run by people with bigger hearts than mine and a lot more patience. Over the course of the day I learned to have a little more patience and I think my heart grew just a tiny bit as well.

Sheltering the Needy – I worked in a bad weather shelter some years ago. A bad weather shelter is a homeless shelter that opens when the weather turns bad. My wife and I volunteered to set things up and help prepare and serve a hot meal. Some other people from our Church spent the night with the 30 or so people who came in to make sure they were safe. Some people who came were street people with some serious mental problems but others were elderly people who looked like my grandparents, others were young and middle aged. All were broke and without a home, except for this one night when we opened the shelter. Its hard dealing with people who are mentally ill which is why I don’t deal with them if I can avoid it. But there are people who do know how to deal with them. The same people who are skilled at helping the homeless and mentally ill are also patient enough to show me how to help these folks. That takes patience.

Caring for the dying – I have had several family members who became terminally ill. Some were old and some were not. Caring for someone who is dying is very difficult. You need to feed them special food, make sure they get their medicine, help them get up and down and clean them. You also have to listen to them express their fears about dying, this is harder than anything else. People who are dying are often irritable and afraid and heavily medicated and in pain and they never get good news from the doctor which only makes things worse. Another reason it is difficult to work with the dying is that it reminds you that one day you are going to die.

No one is better at caring for the dying than the people from hospice. Hospice workers not only know the mechanics of helping people who are dying they know how to deal with the dying so that they can retain some sense of dignity and control over what is left of their lives. Dignity and control are very important to people who are dying. I have watched people die and in each case it took me months to recover. Hospice workers see it all and they keep coming back. I marvel at them.

I think that if Christians spent more time feeding the hungry and sheltering the needy and caring for the dying we would make a much better impression than we do when we campaign for petty political causes. There are things that are much more important.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

1 Comments:

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