There had been a couple months where I had been inactive in the nursing home ministry of my church. While I was not actively thinking about the rejection of my last experience, it still hurt so I didn’t try to find anyone else to visit. However, the director of the ministry reached out to me by email one day and informed me of a couple who was struggling. The husband had gone to a nursing and rehab center. Things looked grim. She told me they were not members of our church but had gone there more than a decade ago. Mainly, they were just looking for someone who could visit the husband while he stayed in care there. I agreed to make a visit.
When I walked in the door, I met the man and his wife. They were a nice couple and I soon learned of the heartache and struggle they were both having to go through. The man was diagnosed with lung cancer three years earlier. A year later, he had a stroke that affected his body. Now, lying there in his hospital bed, he wrestled with pain in his body on a daily basis. It often got so bad, he could barely stay out of bed long enough to do anything. The couple worked for the same company for years but now found themselves apart. With his health the way it was, she simply could not care for him any more on her own and he had to rely on a full time staff to do so now. Meanwhile, she found herself still as busy as ever, going to work and managing the household alone. Her weekday mornings started at 4:30 a.m. and ended roughly around 7 p.m. before she found herself winding down for the night to repeat the process again the next day. With such a schedule, she was only able to visit her husband during the weekends, since he was about a half hour drive in the opposite direction from their home and work.
Therefore my new friend was eager for a visit from anyone. I still had concerns from the last person asking me not to return for a future visit. For some reason, I couldn’t keep my big mouth shut and out came my insecurity of that last rejection. I asked them to please communicate with me if I visited too much or if there was any trouble at all, as I did not want history to repeat itself. They both assured me there would be no such issue and invited me to come as it suited my schedule. Thus began my new friendship with the couple. After his wife left, him and I got a chance to get to know one another more. We spoke about work and anything else to make conversation. Before I left, I read to him three sets of scriptures I picked out earlier. Then I prayed and left.
On my return visits, he became less talkative but still responded when prompted. On one trip I brought him some snacks. On another, I tried to play games with him but they didn’t seem to grab his interest. I will say though, he cheated a little at the game of checkers! The other games we didn’t even try. Instead, we sat and watched television together. I started to wonder whether my visits had an impact or not. Since he didn’t say much, I had no feedback. I questioned whether I should even go or not, but decided to continue visiting anyway.
One thing I found out was that he had no remote control for the television. On a return visit, he still did not have one. To the average person, it would not have been a big deal. But for my friend who was bedridden for several weeks now watching the same channel, I realized he had grown tired of watching the same things. That’s the thing about things we take for granted; they come so easily that we ignore them. When we don’t have them, it adds significantly to our frustration. It is so easy to lose hope when things seem they will never change. When each day repeats itself, it becomes all you know.
I wanted to help my friend but knew I could not make him physically better. But one thing was for sure, I could get a universal remote working. So I picked one up and brought it with me on my next visit. I wanted to smack myself in the forehead when I opened the package and found out batteries were not included. However, a nurse came to the rescue and brought some, which meant we didn’t have to wait until Monday when maintenance came to get it working. I plugged them in, switched the channel and handed him the remote.
To see my friend smile the way he did, I’d have paid three times the amount for the remote. He switched through one channel after another and turned back to me with the biggest smile I ever saw on his face. It was as though Christmas came early. I remember thinking, who would’ve thought something so small could make such a big difference. It is truly amazing to witness the impact a small action can have. Sometimes we wait around for when we can really do something big that will have an enormous impact on the well being of others. Might I suggest, while you wait, find a small need of someone around you and work on that in the meantime.