When Moses parted the Red Sea and when Jesus walked the earth, people with illnesses were ostracized and thought to have something fundamentally, morally wrong with them. Consider the lepers, the blind, or those women who, for perhaps health-related reasons, were barren – society did not look kindly upon them.
Today, many attitudes have changed on a scientific and medical level when it comes to illness. A better understanding of the mechanisms that bring on various illnesses has helped, as have better treatments. The media often has a compassionate way of embracing the seriously ill, raising awareness for their maladies and offering information and, in so doing, better public understanding.
Yes, we’ve come a long way – partly.
Although publickly there seems to be more of an acceptance of those with illness, in private, including among family members and faith communities, there can be a hesitation to de-stigmatize illness (of whatever kind). Whether in blaming the patient for past actions (smoking, obesity, lifestyle, etc.), resentment for the expense of attention and money needed to treat someone with a serious illness, or a misunderstanding of the nature of illness that sees it as a punishment, there are some people who ostracize the frail and fading, casting a shadow over those who are so very much in need of love.
As long as I’ve lived with illness, I have not seen any point in blaming, hating, or otherwise throwing out those who suffer. What’s past is past, when it comes to anything someone might have done to bring on their illnesses. Because someone has an illness is absolutely no reason to hate them. And as for discarding those who suffer, well, we have only to understand that, as soon as we condone that behavior, we must be prepared to be treated in the very same way.
No, illness has been, is and always will be – a part of living. Rich, poor, educated, illiterate, Christian or agnostic, each of us will be touched by it at some point in our lives. With this in mind, we can begin to unravel the prejudice and hurt so that those who are currently whole and those who suffer can live with dignity, light, and compassion.
Centuries ago, society did not view those who carried illness or were infirm as having any value. I hope today that we are much more advanced than that – and that we recognize that, people who are ill do serve a great purpose. They teach us how to care, be courageous, and have faith – lessons that bring light to us all.
Blessings for the day,