The other night, KLOVE played Jason Gray's "With Every Act of Love" and it caught my attention, especially this part:
God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you
Is the song the finest moment in Christian music? Probably not. But the metaphor got to me.
I was on my way to a job that is physically and emotionally demanding. It's a job that can easily result in a person feeling jaded, miserable, and unhappy. I saw that in myself the first time I did this type of work, and I'm aware of my vulnerability to fall into that again. I hear it in the discussions among the other aides, who have been there longer than me. And really, I cannot blame them. People who are in pain often become difficult to relate to, their physical hurt causes them to lash out. People suffering from dementia can be all over the place emotionally. Sometimes they'll grab your face and kiss you, and other times they'll clock you one because they don't understand who you are or what you're doing to them. Sometimes they're pleasant as can be, but other times pain or confusion or anxiety morphs them into truly miserable persons. Plus this job has some pretty unpleasant aspects to it, caring for adults who don't have full control over their bodily functions. And then lifting, transferring, shifting, pulling, tugging--with people who are as big as you but don't have the ability to help themselves in any way. It is tough.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
They are my fellow human beings. Not only that, but they are the vulnerable ones, the hurting ones, "the least of these." I don't have to go on a mission trip to find an orphan to feed. The opportunity to Love is right in front of me, every day, all week long.
Every day I work, I walk into rooms where there are women who cannot get themselves a sip of water, visit the bathroom on their own, or pick up a spoon to nourish themselves with food that is set before them. Every time I hold a glass of water to their lips, help them get where they need to go, or patiently feed them, I am representing God's love to them. When I go into Sister M.'s room two dozen times a night to lift her wandering legs back into her bed and reassure her that it is nighttime and she doesn't have to worry about doing her work or getting to Mass on time, I am representing God's love to her. When Sister J. rings the call bell 5 times in an hour or Sister A. calls and I know I'm going to be sucked into 20 minutes of straightening already straight blankets and otherwise accommodating her OCD, and I walk in there with a smile on my face and patience in my voice...love. When I take a moment before moving on with my work to talk to Sister E. even though contractures from her Parkinson's disease make her completely incapable of responding even with a smile...love. When I can get over myself, and the human tendency to assume that they are messing with me or taking advantage (which is a common assertion made by many of the people who I work with) and do my job without resentment...love.
This is not something I'm skilled at. It's not something that is easy. It's not something I want to make a career of, mostly because I doubt my capacity to keep from becoming a jaded hard-ass and forget that I'm caring for real people, not just taking care of bodies. I get caught up sometimes in the chatter and the eye-rolling. And at 2 am when someone has called for the 6th time to use the bathroom, I might scream if I didn't think it would wake the others and set off a flurry of calls to attend to.
But it helps to think of that song. By myself, I lack the strength to consistently Love. I'm an exhausted, worn out person, with huge wounds of my own. I grump, I complain, I resent, I whine. I am all too good at doing those things.
I think I can be a door though. I can't Love like I should, all on my own. But if the Love of God can walk through me and touch others, I will be grateful.
I think I have decided on my New Year's Resolution. In 2014, I will be a door.