08. Everyday saints – a geriatric nurse in Japan

We detour from the book, and look at an everyday saint closer to our locale.

I was watching a NHK documentary on TV, about geriatric care in Japan. The program zoomed in on a small elderly day care center in the heart of a public housing area.

Public housing, like what we have in Singapore, is government subsidized housing that is more affordable than other forms of housing. Traditionally, public housing is built simply, and perhaps a little away from the city areas. In the program, this suburban area with public housing is home to many elderly people, because their children have all grown up and moved to the cities. Many live alone, or with a spouse.

There is a small geriatric day care center, where Ms Sugimoto serves. She is a qualified nurse, and she makes an attempt to tend to all those under her care.

There is an elderly man with a terminal illness, and bed-ridden. His dying wish was to see a performance at the theater with his whole family. It was usually not quite possible, but Ms Sugimoto took the trouble to contact the theater, to plan for accessibility, and even a van for bringing the man’s family to the theater and back. The dying man in a wheelchair saw the performance with his family, and passed away three days later, peacefully.

In another incident, an elderly lady living alone came to Ms Sugimoto to repair a small altar adornment she used to keep a small tablet of her reposed husband. Ms Sugimoto not only arranged for the broken altar adornment to be repaired, but she constructed a standee with an envelope to house the memorial tablet for the elderly lady, with a written reminder that the altar piece was sent for repairs. The elderly lady has developed dementia, and often forgets where she places remotes, wallets, money, and so on. Every time, Ms Sugimoto would patiently help the elderly lady to find the items, and assure the elderly lady that all is well.

Ms Sugimoto may appear to many around her simply as a helpful nurse in a geriatric facility. But is she what she appears? She has done more than what some may do in a job. She has done all with heart, and with respect.

There are many facets to people we encounter.

Do we simply look microscopically at the flaws of people, and condemn them with no second thought? Or do we look upon everyone, however difficult, with love and respect, and for us Christians, offer prayers for their strength and well-being? (Ephesians 4:31-32)

As Proverbs 11:24-25 reminded us, it is a blessing to be able to serve and to love.

We are called to be Christians, to rise up towards God, and to embrace others as Christ commanded. No, it is not easy, but it is what we are tasked to do as Christians, wearing that badge of humility, of service, of prayers, of repentance, and of compassion.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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