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Letters From a Hospital Bed #5: Reflections From a 99 Year Old

Updated: Dec 4, 2021

Letters from a Hospital Bed is a series of reflections by Jim Houston, now entering his 100th year, in which Jim seeks to capture and reflect new insights of his ever-discoverable God, revealed through his own hospitalization, for the encouragement of all care givers.

An Exploration of the Strange Experience of Being Still…Well, More Still Than Normal!

December 3, 2021

Dear friends;

As we conclude our letters today, one of the advantages of being on the horizontal in bed, is that you have intimate stories as you look at each other in the eye, with a reciprocity that we do not often experience. It is like the experience of the psalmist; “as a child in its mothers arms, so are my thoughts to you, Oh Lord”. When I was at the major local public hospital in a recent stay of 3 weeks, I was looked after by more than a dozen different nurses of diverse ethic backgrounds. As I watched them, I saw how they struggled with their own diversity. Their cultural backgrounds shaped how they cared for the patients. The difficulties they had with each other was that they had such contrasting modes of caring, reflecting different temperaments and emotions. They were not understanding each other.

Here, in this small private hospital where I now stay, there is much less diversity among the different backgrounds and a much more consistent caring model, based largely on their Filipino heritage. I am finding that I am getting to know them, almost as if I were one of their relatives. Ironically, I can be more intimate with them than I can be with my own family. In a family, we take each other for granted, but these nurses know me more intimately, because of the kinds of care that they give to me. I have no regrets of being with them in this caring place because I am learning that it is through this very personal caring that real intimacy grows. With my family, as I enter into this deeper vulnerability of my personal needs, I also find a growing intimacy with them as they witness my deeper physical dependence.

When Jesus took up the towel and washed the disciples feet, he shows us that it is in the very personal acts of caring for one another that real intimacy grows. Yes, partnership and collaboration are borne of work together, but to be truly know and to be truly known, we must enter into a much deeper and much more personal caring for one another’s basic needs. At this stage of my life, my physical limitations offer me little choice, but I see its fruit as I discover deeper layers of intimacy with those who in many ways are strangers and yet are far from strangers, they are fast becoming my dearest friends. As you reflect on your own communities, on the various estrangements that we all experience and that I know have burdened many of you for so long, I urge you to take the risk of being attentive to the other in very simple and basic ways of caring. ‘A cup of cold water’ if often more than enough if we but pause and take the risk of making the offer.

Sending you all much love


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