We live in a world that is filled with need. Needs of many kinds. People have emotional needs or financial needs. Some need to be listened to and simply loved and accepted. Some may need to be talked to in a manner that could seem harsh but is in reality simply stating the facts.
Perhaps we all fit into one of the above categories at different times of our lives. Being retreat master has its challenges. People do come here for help. Not many, but they come. So I do what I can, which is not much and I tell them that. I also ask them not to tell others about what I did for them, for if too many come, I won’t be able to help anyone.
Also, there are con-artists, which I am sure I have fallen prey to. Yet as time goes on I am learning. I also believe that all of us have people come into our lives that we ‘know’ on some level that we are to help, perhaps a little more than we normally do. If I think about all the need just here in Conyers, I believe that it would paralyze me if I obsessed over it. Yet I can do one person at a time, a person who is struggling and often alone.
People in need can be painted by some as just being lazy, or have an attitude of entitlement. There is some truth to that of course. However, there are those who really need help and can be overlooked if cynicism is allowed to take over. I can’t save or change anyone, but from time to time I can give some help. It could be with money, or just to listen etc. I am writing this to encourage others to be aware of those who come into their lives who they are supposed to help. I find that if I do this, I am not overwhelmed, but they come spaced in such a way that I can do it in the name of the community.
It was a Saturday afternoon, around 2 pm when Roseanne notified me that she received a phone call from a woman in distress. My first reaction was not to respond to the call, for it is a ploy from those who scam for money to call on a weekend because there is no one else to help them, so pressure can be applied. However, Rosanne told me that the woman is wheelchair bound and in a motel with no way to get what she needs.
I have learned over the years, to listen to my ‘gut’ reaction when it comes to people. I don’t know why but it seems to be true 99% of the time. My ‘gut’ told me to call her. She was staying at one of those long-stay motels that many people are forced to live in for a while until things look up for them. This call seemed to be from a person who was stuck and possibly very scared because of her ‘hopeless’ situation. In a wheelchair, with no transportation, and later I found out no family members to help her.
I called her, her name was Debra. She was thankful that I called her back. She called many places but either she had to go there for help, or they did not respond at all. As we spoke, I communicated that the places/organizations that help others in need are often overloaded and stretched to their limit. Also, the people are frequently near burnout, so there are times when they can seem unfeeling, or that they don’t care, but that is not true.
She was staying in a large room, with two beds, a large fridge, and a complete kitchen. It was perfect for someone in a wheelchair. As we spoke she told me that she has a spinal infection and she came to Conyers about 8 weeks ago to see a doctor here who has had some success in treating her problem. If this doctor can’t help her, she will be wheelchair bound for the rest of her life. Soon, she was going to get some procedure done from the doctor that will perhaps cure her. In the meantime, they were worried that her spinal infection would go to her brain. At the very least, even if she won’t be able to walk, he can stop the problem from getting worse.
So I got her some food, the kind that she did not have to cook, but could put in the microwave. She could not work the stove because of her inability to use her legs. I got her canned beans, canned chicken, and fish, some bread and milk, some fruit and Coke-Cola. Enough to last her for the week she had remaining.
I really liked her, she was a fighter and did not feel sorry for herself. She was also a woman of deep faith, which at times amazes me. Armchair philosophers often talk about the problem of suffering, but this woman was ‘living it’, and her faith was intact and even deeper than it was before her illness. She also had a son who was in prison. He goes in and out. She was heartbroken over that as well, and was saddened that she could not help him in any way, but only pray.
So after I loaded up everything for her in the fridge, and on a table low enough for her to reach with the non-perishables, I left. Before I went, she asked me to pray over her and I did. So I left with some sorrow in my heart over her situation, but glad that in some small way I could help.
About a week later she called and said that her doctor did not want her to go back to Chattanooga. She wanted to go back in order to finish up some business before she went into the hospital. They wanted to do some more test before they could do any kind of procedure. I could tell she was embarrassed to call, but she was out of money for rent. I usually set a limit on how much I can help people, but again, my ‘gut’ told me that she is really doing her best.
So I was able to do that, and also I received from a friend some Walmart gift cards, worth 15 dollars. I gave her three of them. She told me that she had a friend that could drive her to Wal-Mart if she gave her some warning. She lived a-ways-off and had her own set of problems that she was dealing with. She did, however, try to help her when she could, which was not often.
She called me the next day to thank me. I told her that I could not do much more for her and that hopefully, she is open with her doctor about her situation. This doctor seems to really care for his patients, for he is only getting Medicare/Medicaid from this woman, yet is giving her top-notch treatment. She will she told me, she has to see him the next day.
She did speak to the head nurse about her situation, and now they have an assisted living place for her after her operation. She is now on an antibiotic that she has to take for 45 days to clear up the infection so that they can go in and do what needs to be done. She went back to her home in Chattanooga, yesterday. A man who lives there in the same motel, who pays by the day and is struggling himself, offered to drive her. So they came by and I gave him enough for gas money and a little extra and gave her a little extra as well.
The man was a gentle soul, a big a construction worker who was going back to work in a few day. He told me that when he worked it is good, when work is down, things get really tight. I thanked him for doing this for Debra and they left.
Not being an agency, the Monastery can only do so much for people and I have to put a limit. I also asked those I help not to spread it around, for if too many come, I will have to stop helping anyone, we don’t have the funds for that. Yet, with this woman, like with a few others, I felt I was supposed to help her. I don’t get that reaction from everyone, in some cases, the opposite. I still get sad, but I know that is not helpful to me or to the person I am helping. I am learning to let go with trust.
She may have to be in assisted living for the rest of her life if the operation can’t restore her ability to walk. She is a small woman and frail, but with a strong spirit. If she stays in the area, I will try to get some people I know to become in some small way a part of her life. She is a good soul, dear to the Lord, and her faith being tried is most likely deeper than mine and I could learn a lot from her. I already have.
One more thing, just deal with today, not tomorrow.