July 5, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Sisters, staff offer an example of God’s love in action

Patti LambRecently, I stood in line behind a customer at a home furnishings store and the cashier asked her if she would like to open up a store credit card, highlighting some rewards the shopper would enjoy. The woman wasn’t paying attention at the time and said, “Sorry, but can you repeat what’s in it for me if I open a credit card?”

These days, it seems like we live in a “what’s-in-it-for-me” world. Our society is used to getting something back, whether that’s rebates, loyalty rewards or referral bonuses.

Even when we do something out of the goodness of our hearts and donate to well-deserving charities, we get to claim a tax deduction or get a tax credit.

But I’ve taken courage over these past few months when I encountered a refreshing dose of something completely countercultural—selfless service.

Months ago, my Aunt Mary fell and broke her hip, never quite recovering after the necessary surgery. Despite repeated attempts at physical therapy, my frail, 87-year-old aunt never bounced back and her health only deteriorated.

She lived at St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, which is operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor and serves the low-income elderly. When I went to visit Aunt Mary, I witnessed exemplary Christ-like service. In the months leading up to her death, my aunt required constant care. She was confined to her bed, and could no longer feed or bathe herself. She couldn’t speak or communicate.

The sisters, nurses and aides showered her with love. And it impressed me, especially because my aunt was non-communicative and could not express her gratitude with words of thanks or even a smile as she would have in her better days. But these people were devoted to her as if she were their own beloved dying relative.

One Saturday when I came to visit her unannounced, I walked in on a sister and a nurse gently caring and praying for my aunt.

At that moment, I remembered this saying: “Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you.”

My thoughts turned to the Gospel in which Jesus instructs us to help others, especially when there’s nothing in it for us.

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Lk 14:13-14).

As Christians, we all have an obligation to look out for those that society would rather cast aside—the unborn, the mentally and physically ill, the poor, the aged and even sinners. That’s the example Jesus set for us, even though it might not win us popularity contests. Contrary to the learned of the modern age, Jesus repeatedly taught humility, service and putting ourselves last in order to grow in his grace.

To the Little Sisters of the Poor, the staff, the nurses, and the aids at St. Augustine Home; to my sister (St.) Katie who acted as my Aunt Mary’s voice and protector in her declining years; and to all who minister to those whom society has seemingly neglected: There is something in it for you after all.

Although you may never receive a plaque or all of the gratitude you truly deserve, your humble service on Earth is earning you an eternity of God’s finest blessings.

And your presence on Earth is an example of God’s love in action.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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