Sunday, July 10, 2016

Who Is My Neighbor? She’s Fallen and She Can’t Get Up: My Take on the Good Samaritan Gospel

Purple is my neighbor's favorite color.
She'd like this coloring sheet I did.
A young woman across the hall heard her shouting and called 911.  The neighbor next door to her came to see if we had a spare key to her place.  We don’t, but I went down anyway to find out what was going on and see if she was okay. 

Kevin and I had just come back home from a family dinner a few days before Christmas, so we hadn’t heard the screams, scratching, or pounding coming from the apartment below us. 

When I arrived on the scene, the police had come in a window of her second-floor apartment and were just letting the medics in the front door to assess the situation.  It turns out she had fallen in the kitchen, couldn’t get up, or make it to the phone, so she dragged herself to the front door and did her best to create a cacophony in hopes that someone would hear her.

Mission accomplished.  The EMTs helped her up.  She didn’t think anything was broken and neither did the medics, so they offered to help her get to her bedroom.  That sounded kind of crazy to me.  Here is a woman in her sixties who has very minimal use of one whole side of her body due to a stroke she had in her late teens.  She’s just had a serious fall and it took a while for her to get help.  She lives alone.  Putting her in bed and leaving her there seemed ridiculous, but she and the medics were leaning towards that course of action. 

“I really think you should go to the hospital,” I told her. 

She wasn’t so sure that would be necessary. 

I insisted that she go and have tests done to make sure nothing was broken.  She considered it.  I told her I was going upstairs to get my keys, phone, and purse, and that I would be right back to accompany her to the hospital. 

That was one time when I had the presence of mind to go against what everyone else was suggesting, and it was a good thing I did.  A couple hours later, we found out that she had indeed broken her hip and required emergency surgery.  I’m not sure exactly what would have happened had they put her in bed that night and left, but I’m grateful we didn’t find out.

I wasn’t the perfect neighbor in the following months, but I tried to be there for her.  I brought her clothes, mail, and books to read when she moved into the rehabilitation center.    The two family members who live in town are both older than she is and not exactly in the best of health, so it was a while before one of them was able to go see her.  I knew she would have liked for me or someone to visit her every day, but I just didn’t have the energy.  I was still working full-time and only had an extra day or two off for the holidays.  I felt guilty I wasn’t there more often, but I assured myself that the time I was spending picking up her bedroom, kitchen, and getting her apartment straightened up also counted as helping her. 

I felt really overwhelmed by the thought of her returning to her apartment to live alone.  She’d been having trouble for a while as it was.  In recent years, she’d already fallen and broken her knee as well as her collarbone.  Now that she’d broken her hip, I feared they would release her sooner than would be wise for someone who lives alone on the second floor of an apartment building in which the elevator is frequently in need of repair. 

I contacted her niece who lives in another state and expressed my concerns about her living arrangements.  I had to face the realization that she may very well go back to living on her own even if that wasn’t the safest arrangement.  I finally understood I needed to try and talk her into finding an assisted living place, pass along the information to her family and caseworker, the people at her church, and leave it all in God’s hands. 

Fortunately, through His grace, our neighbor now has an assistant come in and help her two or three times a week, so she is able to live on her own.  She is doing significantly better than she had been even before this injury.      

An interesting aspect of all of this is that my husband is actually the model neighbor.  I even wrote a post a couple years ago about his good deeds called Like a Good Neighbor My Husband Is There.  Kevin is consistently a wonderful neighbor to everyone in our building.  Once in a while, I follow his lead in word and deed.

Questions for Reflection: Who in your midst is suffering?  What is God calling you to do about it? 

My Prayer: Lord, please open our hearts and minds to the love and compassion You have for each one of us, so that when we see suffering, we are willing to offer companionship, mercy, and encouragement to those in need.  Give us the courage to do the right thing, especially when it would be easy enough to ignore the hurting person before us at home, at work, at school, at church, or in our community. Amen.
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