I know how it feels to get wrapped up in all life is throwing at you. You know, the times when it feels like you don’t have time to care about anyone because you’re too busy focusing on everything you need to get done for you, your job, your home and your checklist that has nothing to do with real people. Since you’re too busy to breathe, they should just know you care without you saying anything, right? You really do care, but you just don’t have time to say so. Don’t deny it. I know I’m not alone on this one.
Last week, the tables turned on me.
My dad went into the hospital with kidney failure, pneumonia, emphysema, severe dehydration and a bad case of alcohol withdrawal. Wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was horrible.
One morning, I thought the dad I’d known all my life was no longer. He could barely speak. He didn’t know who I was. He couldn’t eat. His oxygen levels were crazy low. He was hallucinating. He didn’t even know what a straw was or how to suck on one. Doctors were talking feeding tubes, ventilators and nursing homes.
I felt very alone sitting next to him thinking about how alone he must have felt. Feeling as if there were only a handful of people who cared. I assumed people were thinking that his lifelong struggle with alcohol and smoking brought this on, and that it was just too bad. I just wanted someone to care about him as much as our family did. I just wanted someone to see the amazing man beneath all of the struggles. It was as if walking into that hospital room that morning sucked the life, joy and hope out of me. I just sat on my dad’s bed holding his hand and swallowing tears.
Until Muna, the cleaning lady came in…
Muna’s smile was one of the most peaceful and encouraging things I’ve ever seen. She asked about my dad and our family. She mentioned how good he must feel because she could see that he was loved. She said he was too young to not get better. She came in several more times that day, sometimes to work, and sometimes to check on our family. In moments when there were no words, Muna just smiled. Muna visited with all of us throughout the week. We learned about her family, about her jobs, her dedication to her children and, without her saying so, we learned how much she cared for people.
Muna’s visit was just the first encounter with undeserved compassion.
People proved my assumption (about people not caring about my dad) dead wrong. Thank God. Despite his downfalls (as all of us have), loving souls gave him grace and showed how much they cared.
Throughout the week, people our family hasn’t spent time with in 15 years showed up at the hospital to love on my dad. Well wishes poured in from all over the world, and even from people whom we barely knew. Amazing reliable friends checked in on my dad as if he was their own dad. The compassion brought out smiles from my dad that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. Real, genuine smiles.
The powerful thing about taking the time to care about people is that it strengthens their faith and gives them hope. After Muna left the room on that horrible morning, I felt better. I felt hopeful. I felt relieved.
Caring for others is powerful stuff. You might not have time to visit a hospital or make a meal for someone, but that’s OK. A few words go a long way. And when there are no words, a smile or hug makes all the difference…not just in the way a person feels, but in a person’s desire to keep going.
Three days after that horrible morning I described, Muna popped in as she always did. I introduced her to my dad. She just smiled and said, “he’ll be going home very soon.” She was right.
I’m pretty sure that our entire family never felt as cared about as we did that week. I’d really love to get in my dad’s head, I’m sure he’s still trying to process the Jesus-like compassion and grace people showed. The compassion gave all of us faith. Better yet, it gave dad faith. He’s home now…and committed to getting better.
We’ve all been placed in this particular place and time for a reason. Don’t miss out on the chance to be the “Muna” for someone else…be the one who cares…the selfless act doesn’t take much…and it can change an outlook on life. Literally.