My father-in-law had an infectious giggle. After 20+ years of Parkinson’s disease robbed him of much of his mobility and independence, that giggle remained as one of the most visible signs of who Joe really was, beneath a merciless illness. Today marks five years since he has passed. As I reflected back, I thought about all the people who helped him and my mother-in-law, especially in those final years. The people who I remember the most weren’t the people who were just there for him, but the people who were there with him. The people who took the time to really, truly listen to a story he was trying to tell them, or a joke he found funny. The people who treated him like Joe first, and patient second.
A Catholic Charities leader once told me that his hardest challenge was not getting enough volunteers, but rather getting enough volunteers who would look the people they serve in the eye, talk to them, and acknowledge their dignity. I believe I am there for the people I lead and serve. But, am I with them? Do I take the time to appreciate what’s beneath the surface? Do I stop and listen to their stories? I wish I would have been with my father-in-law more, but thank God many memories remain with our family, and they still make us giggle.