A couple of weeks ago I travelled to the US to care for my dad following an extensive surgery he had had to remove over 40 cancerous tumors from his body. While I was there, I ended up “living” in the hospital with him for a week, in Chicago where I knew no one. For those 7 days, essentially the only times I left his hospital room were to go down to the hospital cafeteria for meals.
This was obviously a very difficult time, first and foremost for my dad, but for me as well. I was walking (and sleeping!) alongside my dad through a very vulnerable time of a near-death experience, unexpected complication after complication, disappointment, and an uncertain future. I felt very alone. My only connection with the outside world was desperate Facebook messages to family and friends.
I realized just how alone I felt when one day I was riding the elevator to the cafeteria when the doors opened and a group of people walked on. I physically craved for one of them to say “Oh, hi, Ruth!” That’s all I needed—not someone to process with, or to share the overwhelming responsibility with—I just wanted someone to recognize me and know me—to see me.
The contrast I felt upon my arrival back home was amazing. I was inundated with smiles of recognition, people telling me how glad they were that I was back and how much they had missed me, hugs, and questions about how I was holding up. This stark contrast made me realize a few things:
First of all, I am so thankful for the deeply-caring community that I am a part of.
Secondly, I never want to be in the hospital in a place where I don’t know anyone.
And most importantly, I realized that being known is a gift. It is a gift that I receive ALL THE TIME. It makes me feel secure, loved, and not alone.
And for as often and as easily as I receive the gift of bring known, I want to be giving it. Sadly, I often “minister” to people without knowing them. I teach a well-prepared lesson to my pregnant women, but I don’t stick around after the class to ask, “How are you doing?” I successfully struggle though a Bible lesson and leading a craft for a crowd of kids and teens at House of Hope, but I only know a handful of their names. My temptation is to hide behind the planning and details, the checkmark on my to-do list.
I hope if you are reading this that you can hold me accountable to giving the gift that I so deeply desire—of knowing and being known. Pray that I can have the courage to change my priorities and set aside the seemingly all-important details and tasks and instead focus on the definitely all-important people that God has placed in my life.