A Ribbon of Hope patient called a few days ago – a gentleman with stage 4 lung cancer.
"I know you help with household tasks," he said. "I'm having a lot of pain and can't bend over. Would someone be willing to come over and replace four screws on the bottom panel of my clothes dryer? I know this is a strange request and I hate to ask, but ...."
Our program coordinator heard the desperation in his voice. She replied, "Let me contact a volunteer and see if I can get someone over to help you out as soon as possible."
Loretta Salchert is the executive director of Ribbon of Hope
, a cancer support ministry that serves Elkhart County and the surrounding area. You can read more of her work in her Elkhart Truth community blog, Ribbons of Hope.
Something in his voice captured her attention. She dialed the number of one of our volunteers.
"Dick, we have a patient who needs a handy man to place four screws in a panel on the bottom of his dryer," she said. "Would you have time to take a look at it today?"
"Of course," he replied. "Give me the address and his phone number, and I'll contact him."
Anna has been battling cancer for a few years and connected with Ribbon of Hope. A few days ago she needed to meet with her doctor for a pre-surgery consultation. Her friend and chauffeur for the appointment called earlier that morning to tell her she was ill and wouldn’t be able to get her to the doctor's office. Anna's husband of 35 years was out of the area on business, while her grown sons were unable to leave work on short notice to take Mom to the appointment. She exhausted her list of friends and finally called our office.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I have a doctor's appointment in a few hours and my ride cancelled,“ she said. "Is there any chance that a volunteer might be able to help me get to the appointment? I don't want to postpone my surgery."
Accommodating last minute transportation requests is usually difficult for us. We depend on our trained volunteers to transport patients to their doctor appointments and even an early request can be challenging to accommodate because of the availability of our volunteers and staff.
Something in her voice captured my attention.
It just so happened that my business appointment canceled that day, providing me just enough time to get Anna to her appointment, pick up a prescription and get back home before heading to my next meeting.
I had never met Anna before. The few hours we spent together allowed me to hear about her interests and hobbies, dreams shattered by the residual effects of cancer and hopes for the future. She spoke of her love and appreciation of her family and the medical team who caught her cancer and helped save her life. She spoke of her faith and mentioned the names of a few TV preachers she learned to enjoy when she couldn't make it to church because her treatment left her tired and weak. While pulling into her driveway, she turned to me and said, "You're a lifesaver! I don't know what I would have done without you today."
"I'm looking forward to connecting with you again. Today was a great day. I made a new friend!" I replied. Anna smiled as she carefully stepped out of my car and disappeared through her front door.
Backing out the drive, I couldn't help but reflect on the last few hours and felt a sense of gratitude that everyone else was busy that day; that my meeting had canceled and that I spent time with Anna. In the midst of my crazy schedule, it was good to offer human compassion to someone who needed help. I was the lucky one because spending time with her touched my heart!
The little girl was unhappy. She had arrived mid-morning at the hospital with her mom because Grandma's health had declined during the night. Mom had thrown some things together to entertain her, but nothing seemed to capture the little girl's attention.
As the child's cries grew louder and more insistent, our program coordinator wanted to offer assistance. She spoke with the nurse assigned to Grandma. "Would you ask the mom if she's comfortable with my dropping off a children's activity book and crayons for her little one? It might help pass the time for both mom and daughter." The nurse smiled, excused herself and walked into the room with the discontented child. She reappeared moments later and said, "Mom would really appreciate it!" With that Gina headed back to our office and located a bright green tote bag containing goodies for the little girl.
The crying soon stopped. Something in that tote bag captured the little girl's attention.
Later, Gina passed the patient's room and witnessed the mother and little girl talking and coloring in the activity book together.
What captures my attention? What touches my heart and compels me to act? What was it about the ROH patient's words that caught our program coordinator's attention? What compelled Dick to make time to offer assistance to a man who would not be able to compensate him? What part of my conversation with Anna compelled me to accept the opportunity to step up? Why did the little girl's crying compel Gina to give an Ethan and Zoey activity tote bag?
For me, my staff and our volunteers, our love for Christ compels us to step forward with hearts of compassion. For us compassion isn't JUST about addressing needs – it's about doing so with a heartfelt understanding of how much God loves humanity. He has done everything, including sacrificing his own son to open the lines of communication with us. Who are we to turn away from an opportunity to SHOW the love of Christ to people who need a little loving?
Jesus provides a beautiful picture of God's love for us in Luke 15. Here's the condensed version.
A shepherd loses one of his sheep, leaving 99 in the herd. The shepherd went to great lengths to locate the one missing animal. Upon finding the lonely sheep, the shepherd rejoiced!
Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the woman who lost one of 10 coins she possessed. She tore the house apart looking for the lost coin. When she found it, she called friends and neighbors. Together they rejoiced together because the coin had been found.
Isn't it interesting that Jesus says at the end of this parable that there is great rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents?
Jesus went on to tell the story of the prodigal son who went off to a far country because he was discontented with his life. Before long his money was gone, his fair-weather friends were gone and he found himself eating from a pigs trough. He decided to return to his father's home thinking it would be far better to return as a servant and be provided room and board rather than continue to live with the pigs.
The Bible says,
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate." (The Holy Bible, NIV)
Three separate parables. The message?
Something was lost, and now it's found.
Something was lost, and now it's found.
Something was lost, and now it's found.
And so it is with God. Here at Ribbon of Hope, we get to help look for the sheep, the coin and the son. Every day we get to step into lives that have been ravaged by cancer and remind them that they are worth our time. They matter! They matter to us, but more importantly, they matter to God.
What compels us to serve? Knowing that we might be the only ones conveying hope in the midst of someone's deepest, darkest, desperate moments.
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Get in touch with Ann Elise Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.