Dear Ms. Awareness,
I am wondering if you could help me with a concern that I have had for a while now. While I am at church I have noticed that there are many people using a walker or wheelchair. I often see these people struggle and I want to help them, but I am afraid to get them upset, so I usually say and do nothing. Could you give me some ideas on how I may be of service to my fellow church members?
A concerned parishioner
Dear Concerned Parishioner,
I so appreciate your question and your willingness to help your fellow church members. The fact that you are aware of the needs of others is a sign that God’s love for others is alive and working within your heart!
It is indeed difficult to know how to help others who do not ask for help. Of course, one never wants to make someone feel inept or less than independent. As we age, remaining as independent as possible is a top priority.
Learning to use a walker or wheelchair is not easy task. It takes much concentration, effort and energy. One has to rethink how to get around using an apparatus that is not a part of their natural body.
Perhaps the best way to begin the process of helping is by getting to know the person you are concerned about. One way to do this is by sitting closer to them in church and offering a friendly smile before Mass, or a kind good-bye once Mass is over. Those gestures alone will let the person know that you are friendly and care about them. Sometimes, that is all that you will be able to do for the person, but it is better than doing nothing at all. Remember that the person may be working very hard to maintain their independence and may not have much energy left to converse.
Other times, you may be able to strike up a conversation with them about a subject you both experienced before, during, or after Mass, such as a wonderful song, a good homily, or the beauty of the church as it is decorated for the different seasons. Whatever the topic may be, that simple conversation may be the beginning of a new friendship, which could be wonderful for the both of you.
Finally, once you feel comfortable talking to the person you may be able to tell them that you are willing to help them should they ever desire your help. Or, if the situation arises, you could just stand up and be of service, as in opening the church door, allowing the person to sit at the end of the pew, or holding the handles of a wheelchair as a person sits within the chair.
Whatever situation you may find yourself, just remember what the Bible says about helping others: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
Being the hands of Christ to a fellow parishioner is the best gift one can give. It may not seem like much, but such thoughtfulness may make a person’s day so much more hopeful and positive.
With much appreciation for your compassion and desire to serve,