“Not many of my friends come and visit me anymore,” my Dad remarked to me. It was almost as if a light when off in my head: visit the sick – one of the corporal works of mercy. And it was right within my family.
Struggling with Parkinson’s, my Dad is very limited to what he can do, as every movement is painfully slow. His only excursions are to the doctors. Prior to his decline, he was active and often went out with his friends for various outdoor pursuits. Now, because of his extremely limited mobility, he’s stuck at home. As I get older myself, the 2+hour drive to my parents’ house can feel like a chore. I do love them and want to spend time with them, but the travel does take a toll. I’ve usually looked at the visits as a family obligation, now I’m seeing it in a new light of being one of the works of mercy.
When I would think of visiting the sick, I think of someone who is in the hospital (or just released), someone fighting cancer or a similar disease. I never really thought of it as reaching out to a homebound elderly person. I also had the notion that the works of mercy were to be performed for strangers, not family members. Perhaps I’ve made that limitation because the best example was Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-37), where it was a stranger who aided the injured man. It makes me wonder if I missed other opportunities to help people because the situation didn’t fit into a particular scenario.
I’ve heard it said that charity begins at home, and I’m beginning to see how true that is. We do learn much about how to treat others by the way we interact with our family members, no matter how old we get. Perhaps the best way of learning the works of mercy, both corporal and spiritual, is by looking for opportunities close to home and within the family.