Today’s article is another installment in Brother P.’s column, “Lessons From the Nursing Home.”
When working in the nursing home, I often hear the clinical staff complain about particular patients, and over the years I’ve noticed a few themes reoccur. One such complaint is regarding the patient with chronic respiratory (COPD) problems. Staff members complain that patients with difficulty breathing can be very rude with short, snappy answers, and they do not want to do anything.
My job is often trying to walk with these people, and in doing so, I have noticed the traits that the staff complain about. Often the guy with COPD sits up then spends five minutes breathing, then stands up, and then spends five more minutes trying to catch his breath. Sometimes I ask him a question, and he does not have enough air to respond.
This reminds me of the scenario where I am running on a treadmill in the gym in the morning, and some friend leans up against the treadmill and starts to ask a question like, “How are the wife and kids?”, obviously not noticing that I am too fat to be running at that speed, and I cannot respond with a real answer. But, in an effort to be friendly, I blurt out, “FINE!”
Now, I do not intend to be rude, but I do not have the aerobic capacity to hold a full-on conversation, and in an effort to survive, I come up with a short, one-word answer that hopefully doesn’t engender any further questioning!
Because of these encounters, I have a little empathy for the person with COPD.
Please understand me when I say that I cannot even comprehend the situation where a person is fighting for breath for years on end. But I can at least understand that he may not be trying to be rude when he says “NO!” when I ask him if he wants to walk. He may be just trying to survive.
I wonder if I can take this concept to church?
Maybe when someone has a difference with me — maybe they even seem a little rude or stuck up, or they seem too shy or too outgoing, or too afraid to testify, or they testify too much, or whatever it is that we like to complain about — just maybe I could stop talking about them and start trying to see things from their perspective. Is it possible that in just getting to the service they are running as fast as they can? Maybe not, but I won’t know until I quit leaning on their treadmill and start seeing things from their perspective.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.