Sunday, November 04, 2007

But do You Want ME?

I've been trying to get around to posting a response to those commenters who wanted to know what they SHOULD be doing with cancer patients.

I have given it a lot of thought but I don't feel that I want to put up a post just yet because I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for it.

There is no way I can outline an exact list of rules that will satisfy everyone. Lots of sick kids I know agree with the way I felt about stuff, but there are plenty others who will say that my opinions mean nothing to them.

I will post my feelings, but not just yet. I want to think a bit more about how to put it all down- don't go expecting a great post, I need time to think about what I want to say and how.

In the meantime, I got an email from the anonymous mother of an anonymous blog reader who sent me something she wrote in her daughter's voice. I asked if it was okay to put her email up here and she said she didn't mind if it helped people understand her daughter's feelings better.

Here it is:

Dear JAP,

As I grew older, I learned the difference between first grade and the higher grades. In the younger classes we were taught the parsha primarily in story form, at a more superficial level. In high school, we were able to delve into the Chumash and learn incredible lessons from what were once only stories to us.

This progression was what helped make adults out of what were once children. The problem is, this chain of learning didn't expand into all fields of our lives. This growth must also be taught to students in the pursuit of mitzvos.

When we were very young and one of our classmates were not in school, we were all directed to call and see how she was doing. This was our introduction to the mitzvah of bikur cholim. However, as we grew older, we were never taught about the deeper level of the mitzvah.

The deeper level of understanding would be thinking before calling a classmate who isn't well. As teenagers we develop different friendships and calling every classmate who is out is not as simple as it was when we were in elementary school.

We are not talking about a teen out with a two day virus or a week long flu. No one even bothers to call those girls if they aren't part of one's immediate clique. It's the teen with the terminal illness that reminds everyone else about the simplistic introduction they have all received in Bikur Cholim.

Most people don't realize that a patient isn't always up to fielding phone calls from classmates or grade mates or even acquaintances she doesn't particularly call her friends. Those calls just tire her out while invading her privacy. Even if those girls are directed to call by their teachers, the teachers should really be thinking twice before giving instruction like that.

My question is why people feel the need to call a sick person even if during the regular course of life they would never stop to say hello to them in the street?

Being mekayim the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim is said to take away 1/60th of the person's illness. However, if the choleh is being caused aggravation by the visit or call, the mitvah is far from being fulfilled.

What I think is that the teachers and mechanchos in our schools need to start teaching Bikur Cholim on the kind of deeper level that we learn parsha and halacha and all those other important subjects we study.

Students should be taught to think into what they do, just as they are taught to think into every medrash on the posuk in Chumash. We need to start being honest with ourselves. Mitzvos bein adam LeMakom are wonderful, but in Mitzvos bein adam LaChaveiro there is the aspect of the other person involved. There is a need to focus on the recipient of the mitzvah and not on ourselves.

In other words, are you here to visit, or are you here for ME?


Anonymous said...

So true. It's a long-standing joke amongst us cancer patients/survivors to hide from anyone with a badge from an organization who is proffering a mancala game, offering to play with us. We have to play in order so that the volunteers don't feel bad. We wouldn't want to deprive them of their chesed of the day. Everybody, you've got to understand - it's not like we are being kafui tov in any way - so not - we'd love to have "tov" done to us - but it's just such a problem when people don't know how. A good friend of mine was talking to a very well-known figure from a relevant chesed organization. My friend asked why there are some non-dedicated volunteers enlisted. The person answered honestly - "Bec too many people are in this for themselves..." This can be said until we are blue in the face - think fifty times beforehand - "Does my sick friend want this, or do I have to do this bec i won't be able to sleep well otherwise?" Also, another biggie - generally, it's not a good idea to send out tehillim texts with the name of a choleh - chances are, (this happened to me and another friend) that the choleh will recieve a text message with her own name on it, with a distorted condition... Along these lines, don't arrange for girls to for example, say asher yatzar with kavana lzchus rf"sh... - chances are, the choleh herself will walk past the poster and see her name. Trust me, it's not fun. What can you do? Like JAP said, it's hard to say. Use your judgement and discretion. Pretend you were at home bec you have a stomach virus - you've got fever, you keep throwing up, and you're all sore. You don't want friends calling then, right? Now multiply that "not feeling well" by a bunch of times. Of course, if no one would bother calling, it would also be bad... just try feeling. Wishing everyone koach, whether be it in giving, but also from the recieving end :)

Anonymous said...

I hear what this mother is saying. But again, she's not saying what one SHOULD do, when they are not a friend to the person that is sick.

The Dreamer said...

beautiful letter.
sums up much of what we do, atually. many of us don't move past the first grad level in mitzvah observance, which is quite sad, actually.

I recently was told by others to call someone ill with whom i hadn't spoken in months. i didn't for about two weeks, and then made a trip out to where she was and left a message that i was in town and would love to see her if she was up to it. ANd she wasn't, so i made the trip back without having seen her.
but at least she knows i cared enough to come...

halfshared said...

There are lots of things that should be taught in schools and yeshivos that are not. The things that count in my opinion are middos, bain adam lchaveiro and yashrus.

anon#1 said...

If you don't know the person who is sick, don't call! There are plenty of ways you can have an impact on the situation without bugging her. You can daven, first of all! And davening doesn't have to be advertised, either.
Of course, it feels much more accomplishing if you actually call up the sick person and get all the details, ins and outs of what's going on, and then tell them that if they need anything, you're here for them. Halevai none of us should ever be on the receiving end, and should never know what it's like.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who reads the Yated may have noticed that this letter was included in the letters to the editor section this week.

bad4shidduchim said...

Totally true, which is why I never visit or call people I don't know, though it gets me excoriation from peers. I know they don't want to see me.

Anonymous said...

Why Arent You Writing Anymore. We Miss You.