Sunday, July 3, 2016

3 July: Getting Sick Far from Home

I can log a new experience in my book of travels: being sick away from home. Far away from home. Thinking back on last week, I'm not sure that I've ever had an experience that has made me more aware of what I take for granted at home: that my parents will be easily accessible, that I understand the healthcare system in the place where I live, and that I will know what to do, or have people tell me what to do, in response to my health needs. But I am not at home. I am on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides, where my parents are accessible only by phone, where there is a National Health Service that seems like a foreign language to me, and where the doctor comes only once a week. Above and beyond the tonsillitis, the most distressing part of last week was learning to cope with a sick body away from the securities of home.

At the same time, I was learning how much home a community like the one in which I live can provide to a person in need. I was constantly looked after by the people living and working with me, and by the community at large. Friends from the kitchen brought my meals to my room, tea was always close at hand, and the doctor stayed open an hour later than usual on his one day on the island to see me, although I later made a trip to the larger Isle of Mull to visit his surgery (what all doctors' offices are called in the UK - no one operated on me!). That trip was provided by our maintenance coordinator in his own vehicle. Through the care of my friends, I was reminded that when we live in community, we are cared for, and I found myself thinking often last week of those living without a support network - the elderly, the neighborless, those who cannot afford adequate healthcare, and those who live in places where such healthcare is unavailable because of war, poverty, or disease. We in the developed world should thank God for what has been provided for us, and work to ensure that others enjoy the things we take for granted.

The Iona Community spends a lot of time teaching and preaching about peace and justice as a form of Christian service, and it is a theme that runs throughout the worship each week in the Abbey church. Sometimes, however, we can spend too much time talking about justice, and the systems that prevent a just world from blossoming, and lose sight of what it means to those in need. It is important to identify systemic injustice and a Christian response to such sin, but we also can't forget what people need: food, water, medicine, and care. Love. I am guilty of forgetting this simple fact when the list of injustices around the world grows daily. Being sick, however minor an experience it was for me, reminded me of the care I receive that I take for granted, and I hope gave me a better perspective on the problems facing God's children in less privileged parts of his world. 

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