J's come down with a wicked case of tonsillitis. Unable to swallow, he even has some bleeding on them. Yuck. Glands so swollen he can't open his mouth, and even his tongue is swollen. J moved out of our house last week, but called Beve from the doctor's office Monday while I was driving SK to the airport. He came home and has barely gotten up since. He told me this morning that he sounds like he's deaf at the moment. And I admit, it's true. He has a high-pitched, barely enunciated voice right now. And swallowing the regular-sized antibiotics he has to take is an exercise in torture.
It makes me think about my early childhood adventures with tonsillitis. Though I don't remember the actual pain of those swollen glands, I do remember spending summer days and nights in the basement of our home in Ypsilanti, Michigan because it was the only cool spot in the un-air-conditioned house, and my fever was very high. My parents fixed up a mattress on the floor, and I'd lay there, sucking popscicles and sipping ice-water. I remember that those fevers gave nightmares, though I can't remember the actual dreams. However, ever after, even when I was tonsil-less, I hated that basement.
Then the Christmas I was four years old, I spent in the hospital. I'd had my tonsils removed the night before. I don't remember why that removal was so important it had to happen the day before Christmas, but I definitely remember the children's ward where I spent that Christmas, surrounded by children who were far more sick than I was, kids who lived there. There was a Christmas tree, gifts (even for me who was only there a day or two), and plenty of cheer. But I didn't feel cheerful. It was a very sad day to me--I've never forgotten that feeling. Sure, I got all the ice-cream I wanted, but I couldn't go home.
And it seems to me that there are a whole lot of people in the world who are stuck in places they don't want to be. Stuck for a myriad of reasons. People like my mom want to go home, even though she doesn't know where or what home is. For her, that 'stuckness' resides within her very head. There are people stuck by diseases they're living with, and people who may even be in their own homes, but feel stuck by their own loneliness. Stuck because of poverty, stuck because of poor choices. Even these people are stuck, and the sense of isolation is no less for coming via one's own sins than when one's a victim.
Jesus was very clear about our responsibility toward all of those stuck in our world. He doesn't make a distinction between any of them. We're responsible for them all. We must recognize Him in them. In the least of them who are stuck in lives they never imagined, lives their parents never dreamed for them. Sick, hungry, thirsty, poor, imprisoned. The least of these = Him. That's what He says. And I think He means it.