My father passed away a few years ago, but before he did, he suffered-- body, mind, and soul. He had Parkinson's disease, dementia, and debilitating bladder and prostate issues. He cycled through anger, terror, amnesia, paranoia, and shame. He smiled and joked whenever he could, which was not as often as he wished.
And then he fell apart, slowly. He was in my care for a couple of those last years. They were hard years. He was embarrassed. His face hung in sadness as I cleaned up his space around him. He wanted to be capable. He was angry that he was not. His own father had suffered in like fashion, and his mother had been heavy-burdened with Grandpa's care until his passing. Dad never wanted to go out that way. But here he was, going out just that way, depending at various times on his daughters to help him with matters that would humble the humblest. And he handled it with a brain that was gradually disintegrating, blurring his understanding.
I have two people now in my daily life who require my constant care. My teenage daughter and 5-year-old son are autistic. The former can talk and manage some things herself; the latter is not quite as capable. I have managed many personal tasks for them both. One day while combing my daughter's hair, she began silently weeping. I sensed her disappointment. "You don't want me to have to help you, do you?" She shook her head. "You wish you could do these things by yourself." She nodded, and then she did something she rarely does. She hugged me for longer than five seconds, and she cried quietly.
I have learned a thing or two through these experiences. And here is where I make a public declaration to our dear, aging friend from the beginning of my story. The burdens we help you bear in any small way are not burdens at all. I implore you, my brother, in the acutest possible way, feel no shame. The opportunity we are afforded to stand at your shoulder and bear you up under the crushing weight of tribulation is life's most enduring honor. It's an honor we could never be granted without your willingness to be served. Feel no shame! Knowing you makes us stand a little taller, but serving you makes us giants.
Here is my message to any of you reading this now. There are people in this world who cannot do it without you, who can give you nothing in return for your assistance, whose needs will tax your resolve and bend your will under their weight. There are people whose difficulties will crack your preconceived notions and plant your face on the ground in pleading prayers. There are duties so grinding and menial and thankless that no one wants to do them or have them done for them-- so many people who can't, very literally cannot, help themselves. FIND THEM.
We are not here for them. They are here for us, to make us better! Find even one of them. Put yourself in their space. Do without being asked. Provide dignity to these of God's dignitaries in disguise. You are not too good. You are not good enough! And yet here they are, allowing you to serve them. If you do not take the opportunity to know them, the door to boundless depth of character and spiritual refinement remains closed to you and the children you raise for the future. Do you want to be like Christ? Do something. He will open your eyes, and you will lament the years you wasted not seeing the angels before you. They're all here, hiding beneath robes of need. Find them.