I am a retired healthcare administrator and I’ve served Palmer in various ways over the years as a Chalice Bearer on Sundays, on committees and councils that support church finances and operations, and as a member of Palmer bible studies.
This is not my first pandemic. In 1985 I started volunteering at AIDS Foundation Houston. When Omega House, a residential hospice for people with AIDS, opened in 1986, I was part of the second volunteer class to be trained as a bedside caregiver. I know the frustration of living in a society where leaders won’t acknowledge the severity of a disease. I know the disbelief when people refuse to change their behavior even though it is in the best interest of everyone. But this is not an essay about AIDS. This is an essay about volunteering amidst fear and disease.
When COVID-19 hit in March, all three of the organizations I volunteered for put their volunteer programs on hold. The first organization to bring back volunteers in a limited capacity was Halo House. Halo House provides fully furnished, low cost housing for people undergoing active treatment at the Texas Medical Center for leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. It started much like our Palmer Place Apartments by leasing apartments in the medical center area. In 2018, Halo House began construction of a 33-unit apartment building. In May of 2019, the first family moved in.
Cancer has not gone into quarantine during this pandemic. It marches on, ravishing patients and their families. People are still getting diagnosed. People still need to get treatment. Patients still go into remission. And patients still die.
Each week I go to Halo House to comfort and console. I help people with their applications. I greet new residents when I do their intakes. When the shuttle returns from the medical center, I welcome them back and give them encouragement to keep up the fight. I say goodbye when they head home and wish them a safe trip. I pray for them every day.
Where do I find the inspiration to volunteer during a pandemic? Matthew 25. The 25th chapter of Matthew speaks about the Great Judgement. When the Son of Man comes in his glory, he will separate people. Those to his right will inherit the kingdom prepared for them because: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the Son of Man 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.”
I volunteer because that is my opportunity to peer into the face of God.
During a pandemic we cannot live in fear. People are going to still get cancer. People are going to still need heart bypasses. Caregivers –more than ever – are going to need support. Yes, there is a risk of infection. But we have precautions, and when we use them, we significantly reduce that risk. Our brothers and sisters need us. And God wants us to be there for them.