Feeding the Hungry and Caring for the Sick (In My Own Home)

The view from my laptop: Sick baby sleeping on me while I write.

Sometimes you read a little something that washes over your soul with a wave of freedom, that blows into your heart a gust of spring air.

I stumbled on a comment on a very old blog post from Jennifer Fulwiler, now of Conversion Diary, back when she wrote on The Reluctant Atheist. Jennifer and her husband felt like they were called to do “more” in the world to help people but couldn’t figure out how. Her commenter said:

“For husband and wife, the admonish[ion] of Christ to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and clothe the naked starts right there with your spouse and kids. There’s plenty of opportunity to care for the sick while comforting a spouse or child whose being ravaged by the flu. There’s plenty of opportunity to feed the hungry just by bringing your babe to the breast to nurse. There’s plenty of opportunity to cloth[e] the naked by providing for spouse and childrens material needs.”

That freed me when I read it a few months ago, and it frees me as I read it again today. We have been sick for something like three weeks…I lose track, because it’s been such a long blur. Viruses and flus and coughs and colds have swarmed around and through our family as we’ve swapped diseases with each other and the rest of Maastricht.

As I write this, it’s 11:30 a.m. On one couch, Joshua and Katherine are wearing their pajamas, coughing, watching Sid the Science Kid, out of school sick for the fourth day. Katherine’s nose is bloody because she’s been blowing it so much. On the other couch, I am in my pajamas, holding a sleeping, feverish 17-month-old who finally passed out again. She had a rough night, and so did I, because at 2 a.m. it seemed like the best idea to climb in her crib with her and sleep there. (Rather than keeping her in my bed tossing and turning and keeping my husband awake too…he is getting ready to travel to China and can afford to lose sleep less than I can right now.) In six years of being a parent, this was a first, sleeping in the crib. And hopefully a last. Apparently the couch didn’t cross my mind at 2 a.m.?

I haven’t been “productive” in three weeks. I had to postpone work for one client and have continued to delay work for another. I’m supposed to be helping with PR for my kids’ school, but I haven’t touched the project in a couple weeks. The online magazine site I planned to launch this month is still on a testing server.

As an INFJ, my definition of personal success involves Big Ideas and Big Impact and Changing the World. Putting away laundry and sweeping up the crumbs that replicate after every meal are necessary evils I put off as long as possible. To me, they feel almost pointless, because no matter how many times I do them, they have to be re-done.

So when I get the reminder that these overwhelmingly repetitive chores actually ARE Big Impact activities, I relax. In some moments, I clothe the naked by giving a girl back her dignity as we talk and pray about her broken heart. In other moments, I clothe the naked by washing vomit out of baby pajamas. Some days I care for the sick by writing and speaking about women’s mental and emotional health. Other days I care for the sick by cleaning spilled cough syrup off the kitchen floor. Some weeks, feeding the hungry means volunteering with the meals ministry at church, and other weeks it means nursing a toddler who is hunger striking over her sore throat.

I appreciate the times that I have the energy and resources to reach outside my home to make a difference in the world. And today, I am appreciating the reminder that the small things I do here at home make a difference in the world as well.

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  • http://UntanglingTales.com/ Amy Jane Helmericks

    I used the in-home Feeding-the-hungry/clothing-the-naked (“Sometimes against their will…”) when the guys at church (they don’t so much anymore) talk about “going out” to do ministry.

    I suppose I was shooting them down in that context, but I think even then I was feeling the fierceness of presenting the Christian ideal as one that I had no way to enter into (with my home duties, for example).

    And I still waffle on whether I can agree that “overwhelmingly repetitive chores actually ARE Big Impact activities.” Largely b/c that would make my neglect of them dangerous or irresponsible, and I’m to fragile for that kind of psychological burden.

    At present I’d rather think of them as small things, and that learning to do small, (eventually) necessary things is part of the stretching growth my INFJ requires to be “fully mature.”