So, I drive over to Dub's house. He's ready to go even though I'm early, as usual.
We drive to the Rehab Hospital where Dub will "share". He was recruited, sort of, when his church (Unity) was queried if they had somebody who could
provide some Spiritual encouragement for the patients on the 3rd floor.
Dub jumped at the chance. This would be a metaphor only. Dub has a missing leg. At least the original organic part is missing. A prosthetic device has replaced it. You could call it a "stand in".
Dub used to be a Baptist preacher. In fact, he graduated from five (count 'em) FIVE seminaries. He is eighty-five now. He was "retired" from the ministry by his church.
Slowly, but inevitably, he gradually became unplugged from relevance in not only his church but his family too.
His eyes were opened to some unpleasant truths.
He began questioning things. Investigating.
That's how he ended up in Unity Church. It is "open" to a different style of Spiritual hunger and nourishment.
So, anyway.....the chance to be of some service to others doesn't come often (or at all) for Dub any longer. He was eager to take on the job of visiting
the third floor at Rehab.
That's where I come in.
Dub was a regular customer at the bookstore where I worked. (I retired recently). Dub would come in and hobble back to the Religion section and we'd chat. I could tell right away he was quite knowledgeable. He also had a warm "people person) manner. We clicked.
Now, we meet for coffee once a week and catch up.
He turned to me one day and said, "I've got a job for you if you're interested..."
He needed me to help him get from his house to the Rehab and back again, plus, carrying and setting up his music and bibles.
Something inside me responded positively to the suggestion and I jumped on it.
I had no idea what was ahead, but, it isn't too often at my age (sixty-four) I can have a fresh experience.
The third floor of the Rehab Hospital is vast. It is dedicated to special cases that aren't exactly standard. As a matter of fact, the people who reside there have little actual hope of rehabilitating what is wrong with them. It is one of those words specially chosen to delay breaking the bad news....
This morning after setting up the Cd player and putting on some Gospel music sung by Dub's family and unpacking bibles (just in case) I took a seat in the back of the room so nobody would have any doubt who the center of attention should be.
After a few minutes, one by one, the cavalcade of wheel chairs began. Nurses would trundle them in and position the seats in a semi-circle.
Imagine a large den with cushy furniture and nobody sitting on anything but wheelchairs.
There were three catatonics. All were very old, frail and.....let's simply say...once you looked at them and realized what their state was and how their minds were trapped in unresponsive bodies.......you never would feel the same way again.
On catatonic merely sat with head drooped down and eyes partly closed. Another had her head lifted as though to examine the ceiling. The other was a stare-straight-ahead lady inert in a way that was impossible for me to comprehend.
There was another white-haired lady who merely hummed or sang wordlessly with tune for an hour and a half. She appeared deep in thought and almost happy. Next to her was a woman who would start every sentence with "I adopted two kids in Nigeria....in school they call the boy 'the rich kid' because I send him clothes..." Over and over she'd share that with the group.
On her left was a Church of Christ member (so she told us) who responded to everything Dub would say by repeating it exactly. She told Dub he was a Wonderful Man. Before the hour and a half was over she had repeated that fifteen times. I know, I counted for some reason.
There was a ninety-five year old black man who told us he was a former deacon. He wasn't good at speaking, he said, but liked to bless people by singing for them. He sang "He Touched Me" in a mellow, deep voice that lovingly caressed each phrase. Dub had tears in his eyes.
Dub told him, "When I had my head-on collision and lost my leg I was in the hospital for six months. One day, a young pretty lady came to the hospital and up to my room and sang that same song for me...."He Touched Me"...and I felt like God wanted me to know he cared about my suffering....."
There was this one woman....
We heard her voice so often it became the patter of rain or the sound of wind as a background. She called politely but plaintively without ceasing: "Help me, please. Somebody help me. Please help me, somebody." Without pause. Over and over. Again and again. Nobody blinked an eye her way.
The nurse told us. "She does this. She can't help it. We aren't ignoring her."
Let me tell you, if you are hearing it for the first time you feel like a monster for not rushing over and trying to do......what? Something...anything.....
One fellow who had suffered a stroke had his wife behind him constantly patting him on the arms or rubbing his shoulder. Not in an annoying way either. It was always encouraging and tender. He had only one expression and it never changed.
Dub told everybody he wasn't there to preach to them but to "encourage them".
Dub Horn is very very good at that. Let me tell you. What he says and does is outside of my JW experience.
It is tenderly personal. He smiles genuinely and asks simple questions and gives affirmations.
"We are hear today because God wants us to be together to encourage one another. We don't have to get out and go to a big fancy church to do that. We just gather in his name and his spirit is with us."
There are a few nods. An "amen" or two.
"Why are we still here? Why are we living so long with so many discouraging problems in our health? I'll tell you why: God still has something important for each one of us to do with our life before he calls us home."
I watch the faces. I see a flicker of changes. Some subtle. Some nearly imperceptible. But, he is getting a response.
"What does God want with us? What is our purpose now that we can hardly move about any longer? Well, what are we doing today? We are just sitting here right? Did you know that by YOU being here with me you have encouraged me? That's what you've done for ME today. I hope I can do the same for you and tell you: God knows you and loves us and will never leave you in your time of distress."
The faces of even the catatonic people show....something...I can't exactly say what it is....but, it is definitely a change of character or mood or.....
I'm here to encourage you to LOVE. God is love. He lives in us when we love. Some of you cannot move and yet your mind does. You can hear. You can think. God has your full and undivided attention you might say."
"Search your heart. Is there somebody in your life who has wronged you? If you say to yourself 'I hate so-and-so" you aren't hurting them one little bit. But, your are hurting yourself. Let go of that. Forgive. Feel love instead of hate for that person who wronged you. It won't do anything for them--but--I'll tell you truly: it will allow the love of God to shine inside you."
The energy in the room is like a weather change between sunlight and clouds or before a rain.
Dub grins and starts to sing: This Little Light of Mine...I'm gonna let it shine....
He waves his hands like a maestro as he sings and a few voices join him.
As this goes on more wheel chairs with more patients are pushed into the room. One new lady is profoundly affected by some sort of palsy. Here head and eyes roll constantly. It is disconcerting to see for the first time. One of the other ladies says aloud: "She's crazy!"
Dub stops singing and calmly holds his hand toward the unkind remark palm down and quietly remonstrates: "We don't say that...we say...she has different opportunities than the rest of us..."
The lady immediately sees the wisdom of this. "Yes. Yes she does. She has different opportunities than the rest of us."
And the singing continues.
By the end of our time up there on the 3rd floor I can feel all sorts of things inside of me that I file away for thinking about later. Mostly, I reflect on how very little of my life spent as a Jehovah's Witness was ever spent actually reaching out to somebody with profound needs and giving them something simple like companionship or a word of encouragement. It rocks me that so little can mean so much.
I can tell Dub has had a wonderful time. The previous week Dub had arrived with much effort leaning on his walker as he slowly made his way down the long hall. This week, Dub only needs a small assist from his cane. The energy and enthusiasm has had a healing effect on his health.
Once we are back in the car I go over the things we've seen. I remark about his person and that one. I have to debrief myself and talk about it to deal with the feelings I'm having. One part of me wanted to flee in terror and the other part wanted to hug everybody.
Dub sums it all up nicely. "When we give to others we always get more in return."
Just thought I'd share this with you.