May 12, 1999

Betsy's doggone attitude
alleviates a lot of illness

___Thank the good Lord, we've survived another round of colds and flu.
___This time, the slimy scourge only afflicted half the family.
___Lindsay caught a cold, which made her miserable for a few days. The flu found Joanna and grabbed her by the throat for the better part of the week.
___All in all, we handled the infirmity with a modicum of dignity and copious amounts of nighttime medications. (If you invested in tissues and cough syrup three weeks ago, please join our church. We need your tithe.)
___I can honestly say that I'd rather be sick myself than watch someone else in my family

suffer. Not that I'm altogether altruistic. I'm just a lousy nurse.
___Oh, I can fetch medicine, pour juice and heat soup like Florence Nightin-gale. And I'm a world-class disinfector.
___My problem is sympathy shortage. Three personal weaknesses contribute to this empathetic infirmity.
___First--and this isn't all bad--I rarely get sick myself. People who haven't had the flu for awhile have a hard time relating to the flu. "If a person doesn't have tire treads on her back, how can she feel like she's been run over by a Mac truck?" we reason.
___Second, as I previously confessed, I'm a perfectionist. Flu is the arch-enemy of perfection. No way the house can stay tidy and the occupants stay perky when flu haunts the premises. Flu is messy and malcontent.
___Third, the fever that accompanies flu puts off radio waves that jam my husbandly communication receptors. My mind comprehends, but my heart misunderstands. When Jo acts sick, I intellectually understand that she feels badly, needs rest and just wants to be left alone. I know all that. But I feel like she's mad at me. So, even though I still may fetch cough drops, make juice and disinfect the fire out of everything, I do it with a less-than-serene presence. Sort of a cross between Mother Teresa and Atilla the Hun.
___Thank God, we have a dog.
___Betsy can't disinfect worth a lick. (Come to think of it, that's how she disinfects.) But when somebody gets sick, she senses the need for sweet, silent companionship. She climbs up on the couch beside the puny person, curls up in a ball and stays there.
___Betsy doesn't expect conversation; she doesn't demand attention. She never asks how you're doing. She's present. Quietly caring. She just is.
___I learned a lot about "pastoral care" from Betsy during Jo's recent discombobulation. From what I've been told, Betsy would make a pretty good chaplain. She doesn't come with a lot of gab; she never pretends to have all the answers. But she comes. And she stays as long as you like.
___If more Christians had Betsy's attitude, we'd do a better job ministering to the "least of these."


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