Several years ago Ruthie and I met a man with a most challenging and unusual job. He told us he was a hospice counselor for children. Both of us have had some medical exposure so we knew that hospice was a term used to describe what is basically end-of-life care. Difficult enough with, say, the elderly. But how much more wrenching when it involves kids.
We asked him to help us understand his role. How does he talk to the youngsters – and to their family members? What are his goals? How candid can he be with a 10-year old girl who may die within the next six months? What kind of hope can he give a little boy who can barely grasp what death means…?
It was a sobering half-hour conversation for us. And one of his answers especially caught us off guard. We asked something like, “What do you think is the most frightening issue a child deals with?” He thought a minute, then replied, “I think the question I get most often from a youngster dealing with a terminal illness is, ‘Do you think they’ll forget me?’”
We all feel the need to be remembered. We all need to feel we are important to someone. We all want to make a difference…to know someone needs us; that we’ll leave a void in someone’s heart when we’re gone. We all deserve to know we matter.
That’s one of the things I love about Jesus’ church. It allows me to hook up with a group of like-minded people who are making a difference. They impact their neighbors, their community, their world. Everything they touch. In big ways and small.
I know a group of guys one of whom had a neighbor whose wife died. The elderly widower was crushed with loss and loneliness. The guys volunteered and took turns sleeping on his couch for a month till the neighbor was able to adjust to being alone. They made a difference.
I know about a small congregation in Vancouver, WA, that heard about a village in east Africa where many of the children died from drinking polluted water. So they raised some money and sent a dozen of their members to the village to show them how to dig wells and install a pump. I’ve watched the story over the last several years, and the infant death rate plummeted. They made a difference.
And we pray. After we pray everything changes. Sometimes dramatically; sometimes in small increments. But after we pray, everything changes. And the beauty is, everybody can pray. Young; old. New Christian; old-timer. Member; guest. Rich; poor. Schooled; unschooled. Carefully chosen words or common. Out-going or timid.
So, for whatever skill you bring I believe God’s invitation is, “Come matter here.”
By Don Jacobsen