Saturday, March 29, 2014
I thought about Jesus yesterday. It happened rather spontaneously and unexpectedly so I felt prompted to write about it afterwards. I was with a man I work for who is 92 and who I had just taken to the doctor’s and diagnosed with pneumonia. One unrelated concern he had expressed while at the visit was the pain he felt in his feet and legs because of his dry skin. They gave us samples to take home with us but nobody offered to put lotion on to relieve him of his discomfort right then and there.
Upon arriving back to his house that afternoon I made sure he was comfortable, handing him a cool glass of his favorite juice and then began organizing his pills for the coming week. In the back of my mind I was thinking about the pain in his feet and calves and how he must still be feeling this discomfort which he had complained about even before our trip to his doctor. While making his breakfast that morning he had lamented that it had kept him awake half the night. I knew I would be the last person he saw that day and that it wasn’t in my job description to apply any lotion to him. If I were to do things like that I would take on a different “title” and be paid more. None of his other aids that came to his house were paid to do that, nor did it seem very likely they would, having heard about their limited willingness to do extra things for his comfort in the past. If he wanted it done he would have to do it himself and, having Parkinson’s and limited mobility, the chances of that were low.
Everyone has their own sense of comfort with things and I have never been much of one to enjoy touching other people that I am not particularly close to. It would not be unreasonable necessarily to shrug off his needs coldly and simply ignore them- using the description of my limited role at his home as an excuse. Surely I was not expected to help out in such a way as applying lotion to him. However, I couldn’t help but think that to reject such an opportunity to help another would go against my “job description” as a human being.
As I was nearly done with my shift I began filling out the appropriate paperwork and my eye caught view of the sample tube of lotion in my periphery. I looked up and saw him shifting his legs uncomfortably while seated on his favorite pull-out chair worn from years of use.
“Is your skin still bothering you?” A dumb question for sure. “If you’d like I can help put some lotion on.”
His eyes lit up and he responded in the affirmative.
I inhaled deeply and took hold of the bottle of lotion and knelt down in front of his legs. As I squeezed a generous sized lump of the cool white solution onto my hands I remarked that he should feel a lot better after his skin was hydrated and truly hoped this would be so. The skin on his calves and feet, almost a century old, was very delicate and I had to be gentle and careful as to not be too rough and cause any damage. It was desperately thin and shifted around under my hands as I moved about, slowly working from his calves downwards.
An image of Jesus flashed in my mind. Of him washing his disciple’s feet. Of him serving others with compassion and walking amidst the most broken among us. It occurred to me that when I think of the sort of heart I am aspiring to have-one of love and compassion, one that longs to serve and help, it is the heart of Jesus that I see myself as wanting to aspire to. Even though I am now probably the furthest thing from being a Christian, the thought of Jesus still inspires me and floods my consciousness with a sense of peace. I felt a sense of love, compassion and joy. Love and compassion for this man who I have come to know over the past couple of months and a sense of joy in being able to serve him. It seems that the highest expression of love is service. And the world would be undoubtedly a more habitable and peaceful place if more people felt inspired to simply serve those around them. Not just humans either, but all sentient beings.
As I drove home that day my cynical nature took over while pondering Jesus and questions came up regarding his true nature as expressed in the New Testament. Yes, he served others and taught compassion but then there is the fact that he walked amidst so many broken people and yet chose to not heal everyone. Also, he taught and preached an exclusive rather than inclusive path. Not everyone was welcomed into God's arms at their passing. You know, the whole "narrow is the path" concept. (Matthew 7:12-14) Perhaps all of that is a subject for another post though. Regardless, I think having archetypes-images that can embody ideas and realities that are meaningful and inspiring to us and that help explain facets of our nature in a way that sometimes words fall short, can be useful. And in this instance, on that afternoon, the image of Jesus manifested itself unprovoked as a clear archetype for compassion and service.
Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments section. Thanks!