Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Loving the Unlovable
I was about to turn 22, just newly married and moved with my husband to our new home for the next three years in Davenport, Iowa. Fresh out of college, I thought I'd get a nice secretarial job, but it wasn't all that easy. The town was going through and economic recession and jobs were scarce. Ironically, I was "over qualified" for the ones I wanted, and it took a while before I found the opening for a home-health aide. Kind of a step down from a nurse's aid.
I was to drive from house to house throughout the neighboring towns to visit the elderly and handicapped who had signed up for help with their household chores, cooking, bathing, feeding, and administering their medications. I was to be trained in basic first aid and nursing care at the local community college, and be paid by the hour plus gas money per mile that I drove.
I was actually excited about caring for sweet old grandmas. I just imagined how grateful they would be and what a lovely time we'd have together. That illusion lasted less than a day. The reality was that many who needed home care were those who had no family, no one to bother looking after them in their old age. They were often senile, suspicious, angry, even hostile to deal with. They shouted, swung their canes, accused me of stealing their loose change, demanded that I clean much more than I could in the time frame I was allowed. They were difficult to bathe, left piles of soiled clothing for me to clean, wouldn't eat the food I prepared, and their homes often smelled of old urine. I tried my best to show kindness and they returned it with bitterness. They were sad, lonely and very very unlovable, but they desperately needed someone to care about their forgotten lives.
I came to dread going to work, knowing that I was getting paid minimum wage for doing the job that only an angel could endure. But I remembered that Jesus asked if we love only those who love us back, what reward will be have? He wants us to love even those who persecute us. Loving the unlovable was a very unglamorous, humiliating and thankless job. But then again, isn't that the kind of treatment God gets from His creation every single day? As much as we have been loved by God when we haven't deserved an ounce of it, we ought to be able to forgive, love and reach out to others whether they ever thank us or not.
I'm sure by now all of those people I cared for 25 years ago have passed away, but the love I invested is already being multiplied and returned to me and will continue to do so for eternity. It proves that any sacrifice made out of faith is worth it. Just enough to make me want to invest so much more.