No Room in the Nave

(Would You Want YOUR Friend to go Through THIS?)

Insurance doesn't pay for caregivers who travel with an ill family member.

Insurance doesn’t pay for caregivers who travel with an ill family member.

No Room in the Nave

I stood on the busy street corner, staring at the imposing edifice rising from the concrete jungle in the shadows of nightfall. Churches in inner cities sure looked different from the ones back home in Montana.

Glancing nervously about, I checked the directions jotted on my suddenly cold palm. MUNI to route five, route five to 10th Street stop. Two blocks from bus stop. I stepped to the left, then the right, shifting the overnight bag that dug into my shoulder, hoping to find comfort and cell service. The phone started to ring. At last!

“Hello, Pastor Bob speaking.”

“Yes, um, my name is Anita and my husband has cancer and is at UCSF and a friend told me that your church has a guest room and I was wondering if I could spend the night there.” No point in beating around the bush. My exhaustion demanded a place to stay.

The silence on the other end made me check my phone once again for service. “Hello? Can you hear me now?”

“Yes, um, well, Anita.”

Here it comes, I thought, the rejection. I took one last longing look at the church. Creepy, but cheap. Why exactly was I there?

“Tell me more about yourself.”

Hope like a mustard seed bloomed within me.

“I’m Anita Ojeda, from Bozeman, Montana. My friend insisted I call the pastor of the church because she used to work in this conference and knows that the church has a guest room.”

“Ah, I see.”

Hope squeezed down to the size of sesame seed.

Cold-Calling a Church

“My husband’s in the hospital, and I don’t really have a place to stay until he gets a private room. It’s good he’s not in a private room, on the one hand, because it means he’s not hopeless enough to need one.” I blathered.

“I can’t spend the night in the hospital lobby, they don’t really approve of that, you know. I don’t even need bedding, just a safe place to crash,” I babbled, naively knowing that we could do cancer economically. The closest bed and breakfast (there are no hotels close to the hospital) was $90.00 a night.

“Indeed.” Hope looked like a lettuce seed.

“The gal from Montana that used to work here said the room is for people who really need it, it’s a ministry of your church. I don’t think I’ll need it more than a night or two. When Pedro starts chemo, he’ll get a private room and I can sleep in a private room at the hospital. They have chairs that make into beds, they even provide some bedding, well, the nurses don’t mind if you take it yourself from the laundry closet.” Words heaved out of me, like vomit in a stranger’s lap.

“I see.”

Really? It didn’t sound like it.

“You said your name was Anita? From Montana? I’m just an interim pastor, Anita, so I don’t have any real authority. I’d have to check with the church board before I did anything.”

I trudged back towards the bus stop. “Thanks, anyway.” I folded the phone and shoved it deep in my pocket.

I understood the bureaucracy of the brethren.  I took a long shot and it only cost me my pride and the price of a bus ticket.  Well, that was like losing my bikini when diving into a pool full of people, I thought as I trudged back towards the bus stop.

Wise Words For Those Who Know Caregivers:

    1. Don’t insist that a caregiver cold call a stranger and ask for a room at a church or mission or private home. How difficult would it be for YOU to call and make the arrangements
    2. Give vouchers to hotels or bed and breakfast establishments in the area if your caregiver friend has to spend the night in a strange city. Lodging for out-of-town treatment costs a lot of money. Insurance doesn’t cover it, and hospitals try to do as many procedures on an outpatient basis as possible.
    3. Don’t heckle your caregiver friends to see if they’ve followed through on your advice. They have enough on their plate already.
    4. Do quietly work your ‘friend-of-the-caregiver’ magic with (anonymous) gift cards to restaurants near the hospital (hospital food is expense and not that tasty).
  1.  If you know a #caregiver, you need to read this! Click To Tweet

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

Please note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Anita, Thanks for sharing this story. It is both moving and helpful. It also reminds me of so many of Jesus’ stories about taking in the stranger, caring for the sojourner, etc. That church had a chance to host Jesus in you, and they didn’t take it. Like you said, there are many understandable reasons, but I hope that as a church leader and simply as a Christian I will be able to take your story into account and be more open to those passing through, putting people over bureaucracy.
    Katie recently posted…Poetry, song, and the language of faithMy Profile

    • It’s good to remind MYSELF of some of the things I experienced during that time so that I my heart can remain open and giving to strangers in need :).

  • Wow. I can’t even begin to imagine that experience, Anita. It seems that with a cry for help as desperate as yours, the pastor, interim or not, would rush to give you shelter and comfort. After all, that’s what Christ compels us to do. I’m sorry that you experienced such a cold shoulder at such time of need.
    MaryBeth Crissman recently posted…My Top Five … Blogs, that is.My Profile

    • About a month later, after going through the proper procedures and whatnot, I did end up staying at that church for two nights. But it was difficult to coordinate everything. The experience certainly makes me think of how I respond to strangers in need–whether they stand on the street corner with an “Anything helps” sign or show up at my church.

  • Beautiful words! It seems like it would be so easy to just provide that room…sigh…it always happens neatly in fantasy books (I’m thinking The Hobbit). There’s always a cozy stop on the journey where said journeyers can get rest and refreshment.
    Laura Melchor recently posted…The Grapes of Wrath and Little HouseMy Profile

  • What an experience! Great learning lessons and tips. From your comments I see it all worked out for the good and you had a place to stay.
    Sarah @Thank You Honey recently posted…Whatever WednesdayMy Profile

  • Ugh–this made me so uncomfortable and mad. I love that you shared a story and then suggestions. You have such great posts and I hope the word gets out to the cancer caregivers all over this world so that they can get a bit of hope and inspiration! Also, used your click to tweet. Holla!
    Kirsten Oliphant recently posted…Not So (Small) Stories: Ninth EditionMy Profile

  • Wow! What a great story.. I love the urgency of it all and the sense of desperation. Well done!

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  • Amanda Farmer

    Great post Anita. FYI – Our denomination has a bed and breakfast for patient at Mayo Clinic in Minneapolis. families can stay for around $30 a night. Some meals are provided.