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My parents' rocking chair

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time being sick. Spring and summer allergies meant frequent ear infections, visits to the doctor and days off from school. This cycle would repeat itself in the late autumn and early winter as the weather changed from warm to cold. Eventually I would learn to manage the symptoms, but even as an adult I am not entirely free from these annual events.

As I look back on those days of frequent childhood illness, I could do without most of what I recall. However, I do have one very fond memory that stands out as the place where I could consistently find comfort and a little bit of relief – my parents’ rocking chair. There was something soothing about that chair’s motion that helped the hurt fade away. A few minutes in Mom or Dad’s lap, or even alone, and the world always seemed to be better. For me, that rocking chair had quasi-medicinal powers. It also likely explains why to this day I remain a great fan of rocking chairs.

Being sick is no fun. It is not an enjoyable experience either for the one who is ill or for those who are their caretakers. However, little things – like the comfort of a rocking chair – can go a long way in helping to make illness more bearable. A brief visit, a quick phone call, a card or short note all help to ease the fear, boredom or anxiety that often accompany illness.

Visiting the sick can sometimes make us uncomfortable. What do I say? What do I do? Should I pretend that the person isn’t sick? What if I say or do something wrong? These are all common fears that many of us have when it comes to facing the challenge of visiting someone who is not feeling well, and it may not matter if their illness is chronic or acute.

When I am faced with my own anxiety about visiting a sick parishioner, I often remind myself that the most important thing is just showing up. God will take it from there and will provide the right words to say at just the right time. I simply need to get over my own hesitancy and trust that God will do the rest. I find that when I place my trust in God and overcome my own inner fear, the resulting experience is a blessed one.

During these lazy summer days, I encourage you to take some time to reflect prayerfully on one concrete way that you can reach out to comfort a loved one, friend or neighbor who is not feeling well. Little gestures will mean a great deal. The words, “I’m praying for you,” will mean the world to someone who, when faced with physical illness, may find it nearly impossible to focus her or his attention, let alone spend any length of time in personal prayer. After reflecting, take the initiative to make a reality of your own chosen way to comfort someone who is ill or afflicted. You may be surprised at what happens – both to the one whom you comfort and to yourself with God’s help. And so our journey in FAITH continues.