A Tinker's Tale

May 6, 2010
by John Stuart

Psalm 86:1 – Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. (NIV)

Romans 12:16b – Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. (NIV)

When I first started in parish ministry, I made some house calls to an old man who had no family, no property, and hardly any possessions. He lived in a council house, and all that he had was a sofa, a bed, a coffee table, some chairs, and a hall carpet. I think there may have been some curtains in the living room, but not much more. His family had been "tinkers" — Scottish travelling folk — who lived off the land. Somehow, he had managed to break away from them, and ended up being looked after by the local welfare office. He had good neighbours, but no real friends. Each time I visited, he appreciated the chats that we had, and we talked about his upbringing, which fascinated me. My own father always joked that our branch of the Stuart clan was not descended from the kings and queens of Scotland; he claimed we were the "tinker" Stuarts, who wandered all over the country like gypsies.

One day, I went to visit this parishioner, and he told me that he had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. His death was imminent, and naturally, he was scared. He didn't have anyone to take care of him, and he was frightened of being left alone to die. He cried out to God for help in the middle of the night and looked to Him for support.

His prayers were answered in a beautiful way. In the neighbouring town, a hospice for the terminally ill had just opened, and his doctor managed to get him a bed. The old man worried about leaving his own home, meagre though it was, because it meant everything to him. I reassured him that he would be given care of by a group of dedicated professional people. He accepted what I had to say and permitted his doctor to transfer him to the hospice.

For the last four weeks of his life, the old man was treated like a king. The doctors and nurses waited upon him, hand and foot, and cared for him lovingly and respectfully. When I last saw him, he was surrounded by the hospice staff, and he called them his angels. He had a beautiful, dignified death, and it touched my heart to think that someone who had practically nothing and no one to call "friend" left this world embraced by compassionate caregivers and devoted doctors.

We are all God's children, whether we are poor and needy, or rich and affluent. We all need to be loved and shown kindness. Whoever we meet and greet today, let's treat them like heirs of God's kingdom, as our brothers and sisters in Christ, for there will come a time when we ourselves will need that same love and compassion.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of compassionate caregivers in our community. Thank You for their skills and devotion, their dedication and precious gifts. Bless them in the midst of death and dying. Grant them abundant love to reach out to the lonely, poor, and needy. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

John Stuart <traqair@aol.com>

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA


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