Living on purpose with William Holland
If you have visited a nursing home or a medical-care facility, you doubtless know what I mean when I refer to such places as difficult and uncomfortable. The sights and sounds are difficult for our emotions to process and this explains why many folks would rather avoid them altogether.
I have heard people say they do not like hospitals, nursing homes or funerals and this is usually because they provoke us to think more deeply. When we look around and witness how other people are coping with aging and health problems, it is a normal response to live in denial as the old saying “out of sight – out of mind” reminds us.
However, there is really no need to dread or live in fear about our future because, whatever we might go through, God reminds us in Psalm 27 that He will always be with us and take care of us.
A good friend who is a highly intelligent and humorous newspaper editor in Texas shared a story with me recently about his experiences with nursing homes. He told me that, many years ago, when he was still living in England, he was the chairman of his home town’s carnival association. This was a nonprofit committee that organized an annual festival that included an elaborate parade featuring the annual carnival queen and her court of two princesses. These beautiful young women had been the winners of a beauty pageant during a gala the previous fall and were now ready to go on tour.
As a part of the carnival promotion, the association would take the girls to surrounding cities and have them participate in other parades and public appearances, thereby optimizing its fund-raising potential for local charities and other worthy causes.
My friend tells how it was easy to enthuse the royal court to attend these festivities
as they would quickly make friends with other local celebrities, along with meeting swarms of potential suitors along the way.
On each official outing, the carnival queen wore a white wedding-style ball gown and crystal crown and the two princesses wore colored ball gowns and crystal tiaras. To all the children they met, they were, indeed, touched with the magic of fairytale royalty.
However, with all of the attention and star status, there was one stop on the tour that was not considered glamorous. The girls were required to visit a facility for physically and mentally disabled patients
on Christmas Day.
Each year, my friend found himself trying to persuade these “rock stars” to devote part of that day to spending time with patients whose severe handicaps would break your heart. Every Christmas Day morning, it was a part of his duty to collect the girls and chauffeur them to the hospital and, with absolutely no hint
of his own inner apprehension, convince them that what they were about to do would forever change their perspective of life.
Each year, a new group
of celebrities would enter the hospital with trepidation, obviously intent on getting the ordeal over and done with. However, surprisingly, these young ladies would stay at individual bedsides far longer than anyone would have expected, hugging and chatting with children who could hardly speak. The mask of pride and pomp quickly melted into a sobering realization that many innocent people live each day with misery and suffering.
As they embraced the elderly, my friend could sense the power of compassion that was creating waves of gratitude and humility in everyone present. He said that, at the end of their year of office, the girls always thanked everyone for giving them the opportunity not just to spread some fairytale magic to the chronically unfortunate but also to realize just how blessed they were themselves.
Members of the clergy are more likely to be seen in prisons and healthcare facilities but we do not need to be an ordained minister to brighten someone’s day. It is precious to develop friendships with these individuals and I know there are many lonely people who would simply love to have someone visit and talk with them.
I understand that it’s a sacrifice to pull away from our busy schedule but, according to Matthew chapter 26, this is an act of compassion that reveals the heart of God.
Kentucky resident William Holland is an outreach minister, chaplain and author who has his own Christian website, billyhollandministries.com, and sets out each week to find thought-provoking messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement for our readers.