Going to Church, but Avoiding the Members
The exhaust from our 4Runner billowed like clouds in the sub-zero temperatures. Snow squeaked under my feet as I went outside to check the temperature in the vehicle. I felt chagrinned that we would drive less than a block before parking. Church was so near, but Pedro couldn’t risk a fall on the ice, nor prolonged contact with the cold. He wanted to go to church, but didn’t want to see church members.
“Don’t want to see anyone,” he had told me. “Tired of everyone telling me how good I look. I don’t.”
And he didn’t. When people he knew saw him, I could see the quickly veiled shock and the scarcely masked struggle for a response. They usually blurted out, “You look great!” A near lie, if by that they meant he looked good. A near truth if they meant he looked like an extra for a movie about the Holocaust.
After assuring myself that Pedro wouldn’t freeze, I went back inside to help him bundle up for the short drive. I could give him the gift of church without people.
“Drive up the sidewalk,” Pedro instructed.
I blanched. Pedro must have noticed, because he assured me, “They drive a pickup on it all the time to clear the snow. It won’t hurt anything.”
“Ok,” I breathed, before backing out of the drive way and heading to the sidewalk. I needed to let go of my compulsive rule-following and concern over what others thought of me. I pulled up near the front steps and helped Pedro inside before dashing outside to get the car off the sidewalk.
When I ran inside, Pedro had made it across the lobby and up one of the steps leading to the mother’s room.
Nothing but the Truth
He looked so frail—more like a 90-year-old than a 34-year-old. After battling cancer for eight months, he looked like he’d walked off the set of Schindler’s List—emaciated, expressionless, and practically immobile.
Many church friends hadn’t seen him since the summer, when he looked near-healthy; just a young man dealing with a bout of cancer. The battle had turned ugly in late July, and he had experienced several near-death experiences in the interim. No wonder he wanted to avoid them.
We labored up the stairs together, and sank into a comfortable couch in the darkened room. The annual Christmas program came through the speakers, filled with songs and readings of hope. After the program, I went back down to the 4Runner to get it warming, and then went back inside to visit with a few people and wait for the crowds to clear.
The lobby emptied out, so I went upstairs to help Pedro. As we neared the bottom of the stairs, a voice called out, “Pedro! It’s good to see you!”
Pedro and I both looked up and saw one of our friends rushing across the lobby to greet us. As he neared, I saw the shock and horror. I braced myself for the usual near lie. I had worked so hard to give Pedro the gift of a morning at church without having to hear the hated sentence.
Instead, our friend blurted out, “Man, you look awful!” He clapped his hand over his mouth and froze, stunned by what he had said.
Pedro burst out laughing—but considering his weakened vocal chords and his frozen face, our friend couldn’t read Pedro’s reaction.
When Pedro finally caught his breath, he held out his hand, “Thanks! I needed to hear that today. The truth.”
How to Avoid Near Lies
Give the gift of truth this Christmas. If someone looks haggard and worn out, don’t lie and say they look great. Go deeper and ask them how they are doing. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. If they say they can’t get out because they can’t get away, offer to bring the coffee to them. Caregivers don’t have a lot of spare time, but they always appreciate help!
Those who struggle with illness, whether physical or mental, don’t feel better when we, the healthy, tell them near truths (lies). They would prefer the truth. Or, if you fear offending, an honest offer of help.To say that someone looks great when they obviously don’t, diminishes their struggle. #mentalhealth #Christmas #caregivers Click To Tweet
In this busiest of seasons, make a vow to spend less time on decorations and fleeting gifts of things, and more time looking for friends in need. To this day, Pedro has fond memories of our friend’s blurted truth—the perfect gift in a season of darkness.