Investing in one another involves a beautiful exchange of giving and receiving. But it’s not always easy to accept generosity. Pride keeps it at bay. In addition, a cultural emphasis on “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” cultivates a stigma of interdependence.
Six years ago, my oldest son began having health concerns. Sometimes he seemed better. Sometimes he didn’t. Several visits to doctors resulted in more confusion as to the root cause of his symptoms. We heard the names of illnesses we can’t pronounce and were told as well that it’s all “in his head.”
Remedy after remedy tried … and failed. More doctors, more time and energy spent troubleshooting; no answers. And just when we least expected it, another health issue emerged. As fall ended and more school was missed, frustration grew. It invaded family life. Siblings were feeling left out. My ability to home school became confined by doctor’s appointments and my diverted attention. Our son grew sicker and neither my husband nor I could help him.
When answers seemed to elude us, taking him to Mayo Clinic surfaced in my mind. However, we faced the practical questions: How would we afford it? Our medical debt was piling up by the week. Who would watch our other two kids (especially when my daughter was home schooled?) For a whole week? What about …?
Little did I know that I would experience the beauty that emerges when the body of Christ embraces its mission. Because of our story unfolding before the eyes of our congregation, it became apparent that we needed help. Without our knowledge, our pastor initiated a fund to help us with expenses. I was aware of the sacrifices involved.
While the financial issue seemed resolved, the logistics of finding people to care for our 11-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter seemed challenging. I honestly could not imagine how it would happen. However, as I talked with my younger son who was feeling apprehensive about our trip, a plan emerged. I made several calls, and within a day we had put together a schedule of daily caregivers.
A community of church friends and neighbors unfolded. Despite them not being familiar with each other, they committed to the greater picture. Seamlessly, these friends transported our children to school and to each other’s homes, helped with homeschooling, and provided dinner and comfort in our absence. They became our “mat carriers.”
“Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus” (Luke 5:18-19).
As it turned out, our son began a journey toward healing at Mayo Clinic. We will always be thankful for that community that cared for us and listened to our concerns. The generous investment of others in our story made our experience possible. My younger children not only saw God move in the bigger story of our trip but saw what it means to be hospitable: to set aside an agenda and share resources in order to truly welcome others not just to the table but into our lives.
It’s unfortunate that it sometimes takes moments of “paralysis” to surrender ourselves to God’s hand at work. Receiving is hard. Yet, I know how blessed I am when the Holy Spirit prompts me to an act of giving. When we accept the gifts offered from another, we see God at work, prayers answered, the beauty of our “connectedness.”
Sometimes, as I reflect on that season, I think about what could have happened had we known the cause of his problems in the first place. Truthfully, I am surprised that no local medical professional diagnosed it. I imagine how we could have implemented the treatment and avoided all the time, money, and energy so generously given by our “mat carriers.” The way God answered our prayers through our beloved community, though, left an imprint on my family. And we all share in that blessing.