Matthew 25:40 - And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
In this series, those working within health care were asked to consider the words of Matthew 25:40 and then answer: Who are the least of these? How do they impact your ministry?
In reading the whole chapter of Matthew 25, I was struck with the words in verse thirteen: “So stay awake and be prepared.” These words, too, are pertinent to the question, “Who are the least of these?”
Currently, I am teaching largely undergraduate students in a school of nursing. It is easy from a distance to judge why a student is underperforming, having a bad day or not progressing through the curriculum as anticipated. However, in taking the time to meet with students and listen to their stories, invariably I am struck with unanticipated sadness, grief and loss. Complex problems are crippling the student’s ability to perform not only academically, but in his or her ability to manage life. This leads to my answer to the question. Anyone who crosses my path may be the “least of these.” If I am not paying attention, “staying awake and being prepared,” it is easy for me to miss the clues of someone who is in need of another. If I can “stay awake and be prepared,” I may have the potential to engage with someone who is “the least of these.” Perhaps I can be the person that allows the other to talk and truly be listened to, or who might have a recommendation that can alter the turmoil experienced by another.
This “call” to tend to “the least of these” requires me to keep myself in the best health possible emotionally, physically and spiritually. I am “called” to keep my ears and senses working, to pick up when I may be encountering someone who is “the least of these.” They may be well-dressed, clean, and personable, but deep within suffering spiritually, emotionally, and maybe even physically.
It is often easy to identify the financially poor, lost and homeless by their dress and demeanor. These, too, require our attention. But there are many more that cross our path that may be more subtle in their need. They may just require a little attention, an opportunity to hear themselves express solutions, and experience that someone else cares. If my sensors are not open, if I am not prepared, I can miss an opportunity to make a difference. I can miss an opportunity to be the ears, hands and heart that remain in the moment to help someone needing a sense of presence. So for me, in order to truly “stay awake and be prepared,” I must remove obstacles and distractions preventing me from being with a person. This is a difficult notion in this day of instant communication, competing demands and expectations from multiple directions. Only through times of quiet and focus do I have the intention to silence the distractions, and tend to what I am “called to do.”
P.Ann Solari-Twadell is an Associate Professor of Nursing at Loyola University in Chicago, IL.