Friday, January 1, 2010

Guess Whose Coming Over: Hospitality for the Chronically Ill

Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
— Romans 12:13

Hospitality is a lost virtue for many, although it is encouraged in the Bible in many places. Hospitality always involves adjustment. You open your home to someone from another home (or no home). There are overlaps in ways of living, but also discontinuities: When to take the daily shower, what time to eat, and so on.

Hospitality toward strangers means welcoming them as friends. They are strange to us simply because we do not know them. But chronically ill friends may seem strange, not because we do not know them, but because we do not understand their plight. When a chronically ill person must leave home and stay elsewhere things become considerably complicated and combustible. This is because that person has so many special needs, schedules, medications, and "issues" that it may confuse and frustrate those offering their homes. It is incomprehensible to well people why the chronically ill need so many different things at different times, and why they are not "flexible" (especially if they look healthy).

The answer to this problem is empathy and patience. Try to image what it is like to live inside a perpetually compromised, irritating, and under-performing body. Try to image the emotional strain and spiritual anguish this brings. And, very importantly, try to believe what these sufferers say about themselves and their needs. They wish--far more than you do--to be well, to be normal. But they cannot be. Neither can they fake it for very long until the bottom drops out. They need understanding and love.

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