Tea and Sympathy

In an odd twist, I’ve had opportunity over the past week to feel humble and grateful for service that other people offer me. I contracted shingles last week (yes, even though I’d had the vaccine) and have been knocked off my game. Normally, I see myself as the caregiver, the provider of soup and a hand to hold. Normally, I am the caregiver who never needs anything. But this disease — sudden, painful, not life-threatening but lifestyle-changing — has transformed my perspective.

teacupOur newest curriculum (UU Wellspring – Faithful Action, currently being piloted in two churches) concentrates on Wellspring’s fifth spoke, which is how we put our faith into action, the “so what” question. Over the course of a year, we reflect on the myriad ways we can be of service in the world, constantly reminding ourselves that service is not a one-way street. One of the questions we ask in the second session is, “When have I been the recipient of or been transformed by service from others?”

I’ve had plenty of chance to reflect on that question this week. People have been so kind. Everyone is sympathetic and, surprisingly, has either gone through this personally or knows someone who has. Our neighbors brought delicious soup, enough that we have several containers in the freezer for future needs. And my dear spouse has stepped up by bringing me tea in bed, offering gentle care for my every need. I’m so grateful. And humbled.

Jenny Weil writes in Not For Ourselves Alone: Theological Essays on Relationship, “Our covenant means that we’re willing to be transformed by one another and to be accountable for our effect on others. We have thrown in our lot together.”

I am so grateful to be in this together. I would much rather not be going through this episode, but it has taught me in a deep way that we are none of us exempt from being in need of others’ service, and that we are called to offer service to others when we can. We are all part of the whole.

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