With a little help from my friends…
I am delighted to report that Elisa has been discharged from the fracture clinic and has got rid of her plaster cast! She was getting so frustrated with it, as she loves to be up and doing. We were quite a picture, the pair of us, lying on our respective sofas, Elisa with her injured foot up and me moaning about my sciatica (it's lots better now.)
If there's an up side to being poorly and in pain, it surely comes through the kindness of others. While Elisa has been in plaster we have had so much help from people: putting on cold compresses, taking us to hospital, bringing meals, cakes, cards, flowers, tomatoes and runner beans, offers to help with housework, cheering us up with a visit... Not to mention all those who have prayed for us. You realise how caring and thoughtful people are.
What we've been through has been unpleasant and inconvenient. But it hasn't been real suffering of the sort millions of people go through all over the world, trying to deal with war, persecution, famine, disease and disaster. What we have seen on a very small scale however is surely also true for bigger, badder events. Isn't all suffering a call for compassion? We don't understand it, we call out, "Why?" And yet it has at least this meaning for us, which is the call it sends to us to respond to our suffering brothers and sisters. A world with no suffering would also be one where the beautiful, tear-watered flower of compassion could never bloom.
This is the heart of the Gospel story. God responds with compassion for the sufferings of lost and broken humanity. When he gives his Son Jesus for us, it is because his heart has gone out to us. God is moved by us. That's why he expects us to be moved by one another's sufferings too.
And one last reflection on it all. In the course of my pastoral ministry I have often met people who are too independent. They may be going through a hard time – but they think they have to demonstrate that they can make it on their own: "I don't need anyone else!" The truth is we do need each other. Our sufferings should draw us together, not push us apart. We shouldn't stifle other people's desire to help, to reach out with love. It enables them to be that little bit more like God.
Perhaps it would be a good rule never to turn down a kind or generous act?