Sunday, February 25, 2007


Another post inspired by Sunday Scribbling.

Disclaimer - I'm no Angel. I'm going to spend a lot of time in Purgatory (if I'm lucky).

Last year I signed up to be a Senior Angel through the Chemo Angel Network. I was made aware of this organization because one of Founding Mothers of Blogging on AOL was diagnosed with lung cancer and she was given tremendous support from this group. When I went to the web site I noticed that they also were seeking volunteers for Seniors. Due to the situation with my Dad, I felt compelled to sign on for a Senior.

Since last May, I have been sending my lady cards, postcards, packages, pictures, letters etc. etc. etc. She is in a nursing home in Mid-America and without family, as well as I can tell from the profile they sent me.

I hear nothing in return. Unless I ask about her health situation then I receive several short lines from the Nursing Home. I receive a newsletter from the Chemo Angel organization. It is a message board of sorts that is e-mailed to all of us daily. From this I gather that it is not unusual for the Sender to not hear from the Receiver. It is essential that we understand that if we doubt for one minute what we are doing is making a difference, we are mistaken.

After several months of participating in the program I began to experience a very strange feeling. A feeling of betrayal. Of being a hypocrite. I was puzzled. I had this thought that slashed through my mind every time I slipped a card in the mail or was posting a package.

Charity begins at Home.

Why was I finding it so easy to help and encourage a stranger? If I lifted my eyes at our family gatherings every month, I would see my 84 year old Aunt sitting across the table from me who is every bit as deserving of my attention. More so.

I have been carrying this guilt for several months. Not a huge guilt, but a niggling guilt.

Last month Aunt M. was not feeling well.....this whole episode deserves an entire entry for itself......and she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I was able to immediately begin to send her cards of encouragement and packages under the guise of Valentines goodies. I have been practicing for months now and know just what to do.

Yet I still have this question and this puzzlement that causes me to wonder why it seems so easy to help strangers than those around us?


ab said...

I think we help those we don't know for the pureness of it. If we knew them, we may be less inclined to help. What you are doing DOES make a difference. Don't be so hard on yourself. There are so many reasons that the lady you are helping can't or doesn't respond. You may be the ONLY contact she has with someone in the last days of her life, outside of the medical people. Charity does, or should, begin at home, but when there is no home, angels step in sometimes. You're the angel here.

Shelly said...

Great post.

I think strangers are easier to help because we have no emotional baggage with them. It might be different if we're close with them, but if we're not, it can be hard, especially if we don't get back the emotional investment we put into it. Then the feeling of rejection can be strong.

And maybe that's part of it, too. The emotional investment in helping a stranger is fairly low, and you can get the "good deed done" feeling.

Lisa :-] said...

Your answer is in your own essay: at our family gatherings every month, I would see my 84 year old Aunt sitting across the table from me

Your aunt wasn't alone, with no family. She didn't necessarily need your attenton, at least not as badly as an old woman in a nursing home who has no one.

And now that your aunt does need you, you know what to do...

meno said...

Why is is easier to tell our stuff to strangers on the internet?

Thank you for being an angel for a woman who has no one. And now you are being an angel for your aunt. You were an angel-in-training.

gautami tripathy said...

You ask a very good question. It is true. We are ready to help a stranger but for a family member with similar situation, we seldom give it a thought.

Thinking post. Keep up the goood works.


Paul said...

I just happen to have some Plenary Indulgences for sale.

Anonymous said...

Very good question. I've felt the same way myself. Some people are not like that at all. Family first--always. That's my husband's family--always time, ample time and support, for his family's people, but never for random charities. Sometimes the stories of strangers touch me more deeply than my family's. Strange but true.