Can you hear me now?

In my work as a hospice chaplain, I recently had an opportunity to be part of a little act of love. I arrived at a home to visit a 97-year old patient just as her caregiver—her granddaughter-in-law, Sally—was struggling to re-arrange the furniture in the living room to make room for our hospital bed. When I arrived, Sally was on the verge of tears, frustrated because she had been unable to get a straight answer from the VA about what to do with their hospital bed in anticipation of the swap. So, I helped her with that and soon enough we got things straightened away.

Then we went to visit Grandma in the other room.

Grandma was sitting upright in a wheelchair, stone-faced, making minimal eye contact and not responding as I tried to talk with her and Sally. As Sally and I chatted for a while, and as I tried to include Grandma by asking her some questions, I began to wonder if she was even hearing me. Could her hearing aids be shot? That’s when I decide to take a chance.

Invading her personal space, I got right up to her ear and spoke directly into it so that if she could hear me, there would be no absolute way she could miss this!

And wouldn’t you know it? She brightened up completely! She answered my questions and even laughed when I told her she didn’t look a day over 96 and three-quarters! Nothing was wrong with her mind. Grandma was simply accustomed to isolation because she could not hear well. But when someone actually took the effort to actually communicate with her, she was “all in.”

I am convinced that “the first thing is the worst thing.” The first thing a disease does—and it doesn’t matter what disease, whether it be diabetes, cancer, old age or even addictions—is isolate us from the thing we need the most—koinonia, or fellowship with others.

That’s why, in my book, the act of love that can have the biggest impact on someone else is to bring them out of their isolation by listening.

Every week my little Monday night prayer group ends our time together by listening to what Jesus said to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: “In the same way your light must shine before people so that they will see the good things you do, and praise your Father in heaven.”

Love asks me to keep my antennae up, to listen to my own life and watch for ways to do good things. There are always lots of little things we can do, and, occasionally, some bigger things as well. And quite frankly, I don’t just do it for them. I do it for myself as well. I know that sometimes my own mind is a terrible place for me to be and that I am much better off when I get out of there, turn my attention away from myself, and love someone else.


John Reimers
Friend of Q Place