Lessons in Compassion

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When my friend, Fran, posted this on Instagram on Wednesday, it was the second quote within a day that I saw about compassion.  They say if you pay attention to your surroundings, there are signs all around us that show us that we are on the right (or wrong) path.  These signs are coming to me like a flashing neon sign that my week was going just as it was intended for me. Let me explain….

It all started on Sunday when we got the call that my husband’s Grandma, Marie, was admitted to the hospital for broken bones due to her falling.  It turns out she had broken her shoulder and pelvis.  Due to her age of 96, there would be no surgery… just rehab. Since family is spread out through Eastern Pa and Florida, we are trying alternate visitation days with other family members so that there is someone stopping in each day to stay with her for a few hours.  We had planned to go on Tuesday evening.  But, God had other plans….

As Dan and I were just about to walk out the door that evening, he noticed a woman walking up to our house.  Now, we are on a rural road and no one ever comes knocking… not even our neighbors.  Dan answered the door prepared to say we are not interested in whatever it was she was selling or preaching. It was getting late and if we were going to have time to visit before the end of visiting hours, we needed to get on the road! This woman started talking and asking for help.  She was telling this story of how her friends kicked her out of their car and told her not to come home.  She needs to know a place where she can stay for the night and how she can get her medication from this house she was just told not to return to.  She tried to hitchhike for the past three hours and did not know where to go for the night. We suggested the hospital and churches before we decided to call the cops to come assist her.  While Dan made the call, I gave her water and a PB&J sandwich while she made herself comfortable on our porch. She told me her name was Melissa, age 33, and had a list of psychiatric issues. She was very child like and not threatening at all. We spoke for about 20 minutes before the cops arrived.  Twenty minutes after that, the cops confirmed she walked out of the crisis center 2 miles away and they were taking her back.  They wondered why she chose our house to stop at for help.  I wondered how many others slammed the door in her face before she got to our porch. The whole experience reminded us of the European folktale about Jesus disguising himself as a beggar going door to door begging for food and most people slamming the door in his face. We were meant to be home at that moment in time to help this person. Needless to say, we never made it to the hospital to visit Grandma…

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This is my favorite picture of Allyson with Grandma – April 2011

We finally got to visit Wednesday evening after her move to another hospital that has a Moss Rehab facility. We knew something was not right with her state of mind almost immediately.  Grandma went from being sharp as a tack knowing where she was, who she was, who everyone the room was two days before to being scared and confused because she did not know what happened to her, where she was or why she was not at the hospital she was at just a few ours before. The move to this new facility probably was the stress trigger to upset her so much. She recognized Dan but thought I was Allyson at first ( easy mistake really ).  We stayed with her for almost two hours before we had to leave.  The whole time we kept reassuring her that she was safe and in good hands.  It was hard for both of  us to see her so agitated and unaware like she was. She is always so strong willed and in control.  We spoke to the nurse when we were leaving about our concerns. The nurse said she would have her tested for a UTI because this sudden major change in behavior is a symptom.  As of yesterday, family members report she was much better.  Her case worker was in to visit and she seemed to be more with it.  This is just a small part of Grandma’s story.

This week has been a test in patience and compassion.  I believe my yoga practice (and age) has helped me to grow in these two areas.  Years ago, I would not have taken the time to help Melissa.  Was most of her story a lie?  Yes.  Did she have mental issues?  Absolutely.  But I would not have cared. My time was more valuable. I had a schedule to keep. But this time around, I knew we had to help her.  And if I told Grandma the reason we did not make it to her the night before, she would have understood.  When speaking to Grandma, I kept telling myself to keep repeating to her that she will be ok.  She needs to take one day at a time and reassure her that we all love her and are there to make sure she is taken care of. She will not be one of the forgotten. I think we were supposed to be there at that time instead of our original plan. Had we not gone on Wednesday, it upsets me to think  how much more frightened she could have been.

I guess the point I am getting at is this:  This world is a scary place.  For some, it’s down right frightening.  When presented with a special situation, sometimes we need to shift our perspective to truly see things for what they are.  As long as you are not feeling threatened and feel called to help, do it!  Even something as small as holding a hand, listening with a smile on your face or making a simple phone call for help can mean to world to the other person.

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