Good Intentions Can be Cruel

Good Intentions Can be Cruel

This week I heard the story of a man who attended the same university that I did for my undergraduate degree work. He was just a few years ahead of me, so he is in his early 50’s. His life however has taken an unexpected direction.  I don’t know the details, but I was made aware this week that he has lived alone in a nursing home for quite some time. Thankfully several alums from our alma mater have made a point to reach out to him.

One of those kind souls who have touched his life made a comment that I cannot get out of my mind.  She said:  We can’t just go see someone like him one time.  That would be cruel.  I found that to be profound. She of course is right. When we go see a younger person living in a nursing home, we get their hopes up. They think that person really cares.  And so naturally they anticipate further contact from the visitor.  It would be cruel to leave them sitting there all alone after one visit…

It occurs to me that we pat ourselves on the back for going to feed the homeless one time.  Or we help needy children during the Christmas season. It is a one day event.  We take teens from our church youth group to clean an elderly person’s yard for one day. We do so many things “one time.”  I sometimes wonder if we spend more time patting ourselves on the back then we do in actual service to others.

Today I am thinking about a friend of mine that visits a young man with Down’s syndrome in a nursing home every single Friday. They go to lunch or get out for a soft drink. I am thinking of friends that volunteer for hospice. One of my friends sits with hospice patients at nursing home facilities for hours at a time several days a week. When the patient dies, she grieves with them.  And I am thinking about a lady I read about recently who meets military personnel returning from overseas assignments at the airport. She calls herself the “hugging lady.”  She hugs every single soldier as they arrive. She has provided this service for years now.  I also appreciate a friend of mine who was recently widowed. He often spends his days visiting people in assisted living facilities. And I think of my friend Laverne.  I officiated at Laverne’s funeral recently.  Prior to her death she and a group of ladies did what they referred to as “calling and caring.”  Every week they called and sent cards to elderly people that were home-bound.

What about this young man who lives in a nursing home? We can’t just visit him one time. That would be cruel….She is right. And so I am reminded that commitment to serving others is characterized by consistency. And I am thinking that serving a few people really well is better than spreading ourselves too thin.  And I am convicted by the fact that I have gone to see way too many people only one time.

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