Monday, March 14, 2011

Avenues of Access

"Love is patient. Love is kind..."--I Corinthians 13:4.

Healthy people have their tastes and preferences, but they usually fall into fairly normal categories when it comes to communication (whether they are entirely wise in their choices or not). Some are more talkative to others, but they do not recoil from speaking in public. Some dislike the telephone; some like it; but few find it painful or impossible. Some may not like email, but will send and receive it. And so it goes.

This is not true for the chronically ill. Given their limitations, they do not engage the world of human contact and communication in the same way as the healthy of body. This is obvious in the case of the blind or the obviously physically disabled. We do not expect a blind person to read a letter; nor do we expect one sadly limited to a wheel chair go for a jog with us during which we will catch up on our lives. But those who look fairly healthy, but who are chronically ill (and usually depressed as a result), appear normal. So, many assume that their communicative avenues are just as open as the rest of humanity. They can call, write emails, visit our homes, go for walks, and all rest, can't they?

No they cannot; and it is the better part of compassion to realize that all those who are chronically ill are painfully limited in their avenues of access to the larger world. Public meetings are out for those with environmental sensitivities; or, of one braves them, she pays for it for days or weeks or recovery time. Some find phone calls very tiring. Others may use Facebook as the easiest way to interact with others, despite its limitations.

The point is simple: If you truly love a chronically-ill person, you need to find what avenues of access are best for them, given their limitations and possibilities. Please do not heap shame on them if they cannot play your game. Perhaps you love talking on the phone, but your friend tires quickly and would rather send an email or useFacebook. Then adjust to it--in love. Listen to your friend's pain; then try to put yourself into their wretched situation. This is called "loving your neighbor as yourself," as Jesus himself commanded.

This is not easy, but love requires it; and love is often not easy. Yet Spirit-led love will endeavor to find a godly and life-giving way into the lives of the miserable.

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