I recently had a pretty nasty bout of the flu. I thought that a common cold was coming on, but I woke up last Sunday feeling completely slammed by flu symptoms. So in a fashion similar to an actor portraying someone with tuberculosis in the early 20th century, I lay in bed and tried to imagine how wonderful it would be to feel better again.
Having nothing better than to do while laid flat in misery early this past week, I was reminded of something that my Mom had me and my sisters do when we were sick as children.
She had habits that would correspond to whatever sickness we were experiencing. There would be humidifiers when we had sore throats, heating pads when we had the flu, and watered-down Gatorade when we had a stomach bug.
Each of these stayed in my memory as I grew older and began experiencing sickness as an adult, but it was something else she did that made an even more significant impression.
I remember her always telling us that she hoped that we would feel better and then prompting us to think of someone we knew who was dealing with a more severe illness. For the longest time, that person was Mrs. Miller, a woman from our church who had cancer. She was the first person with a terminal illness whom I can remember interacting with as a child, so thinking of what she must be experiencing was a foreign concept at first. But that didn’t deter Mom, who would gently urge me to think about her experience and then would ask me to pray for her.
There were times when I had no desire to do this and instead preferred to wallow in my own sickness. However, over time, I began to realize just how powerful this little action was. By having me and my sisters pray for someone who was experiencing suffering much greater than our own, it worked to instill an others-focused mindset in us.
This may seem like something small, but it has stuck with me for years. Gone are the days of me lying on the couch listening to Adventures in Odyssey while fighting a cold. They have been replaced by me staying home and doing my best to resist the urge to check my work emails. But through these changes, the idea that I should move my focus from myself to someone else has remained with me and will do so for the rest of my life.