The Lord and I have had a love affair since I was a child because I have always felt the Lord's touch in my life. I have been blessed to have very holy parents but I have also known many truly spiritual people who entered my life briefly and positively influenced many of my life choices. I have always asked questions. Homilies, class lessons and reading assignments answered my questions while I was a student.
In the early 1970's I had just resolved a crisis of faith which led me to accept a role I had previously relegated to ordained people. Although I was certain that I loved God, I had lots of insecurities concerning my worthiness to become an active Catholic Christian lay person. (This was a time when we were losing lots of religious people and suddenly, there were much fewer ordained individuals to teach religion, visit the sick, and distribute the Eucharist.) Although I had theology and religion classes in high school and college I was very uncomfortable abandoning the passive lay person role I had accepted before I began sharing my religious beliefs as a CCD instructor (Christian Doctrine for school aged kids), bringing the Eucharist to the sick and volunteering to visit the sick. I was one conflicted, uptight person when I started.
"Friendly Visitor" was the title given at St Mark's parish in Catonsville, MD to volunteers who ministered to the aged and sick patients at local nursing homes. My first patient was a very ill paralyzed gentleman who was in obvious pain and who was attached to monitoring, IV tubes and breathing devices. He was dying, suffering, and unable to communicate besides. Fortunately, we were taught how to engage patients in discussion and to elicit responses from patients who were unable to speak by using eye blinks: one for no and two for yes. If I did not perform, he would die alone in pain. There was no one else to help. This just increased my already heightened sense of pressure.
Before I go any further, I want to mention some background. I have never been good at sports due to my poor coordination and so I grew up always "warming the bench" or being chosen last "under protest" for team sports. I was fortunate however that I was blessed with scholastic aptitude so I emphasized scholarly success in lieu of developing skills in basketball or baseball. As I matured, I tuned out any radio or TV description of a sports match outcome and routinely tossed the sports section in the trash before beginning the newspaper.
I asked if there was anything I could do for him during our visits. He blinked twice and I determined that he wished me to read the daily paper to him. In particular, the sports section. Like a well-timed joke it really broke the ice for me, and this uptight "Friendly Visitor" could imagine the Lord laughing at this great set-up.
I did not visit him many times since he died shortly after I started visiting him but I'm certain he was less lonely and that he is praying for me. I believe that the good we do is to our benefit. On reflection, I suspect that he was placed in my life to be ministered to and in ministering to him I was ministered to in return.
Bob L., Michigan
Editor's commentary: The above author has been a regular and dependable volunteer at my church since the 1970's, and taught Catechism to my daughters. By the time he taught my daughters, he was the teacher who was seen as the most calm and natural of all the teachers. Not bad for someone who started out conflicted and uptight. I suspect the Lord knew he needed a good laugh in his first volunteer event, and to be reminded that the Lord was with him during every step of his volunteer work. - Bill Schaef