Loving Your Neighbor: the Story of Shelley — Nicole O'Meara

(Photo: Unsplash)

She came bouncing into my room in pink scrubs and a messy pony tail.  The hospital name badge identified her as “Shelley,” my nurse for the day.  Her bouncing took me off-guard.  Nurses don’t bounce, but Shelley does.  We were meeting for the very first time, but she acted as if we were already friends. Shelley only has friends.  She’s that kind of person.

A Personal Cheerleader

Unphased by my inability to sit up in bed on my own or move myself from bed to wheelchair.  Shelley dispensed cheer alongside my daily meds.  Not the fake kind of cheer, but the infectious kind that makes you want to get up and dance, then laugh at yourself when you fall down.

Once the obligatory medical questions were asked and answered, she started asking about my dog.  Then she whipped out her phone to share pictures of her fur-babies. Debating between getting a dog or a cat, she decided to adopt two cats so they could be companions while she was away all day at work.  “You can’t leave dogs home alone all day,” she said.  “But you can teach them fun tricks,” I countered.  To that, she found and played a video of one of her cats performing a trick she taught him.  Ok, she won.  

When she left the room, I realized I hadn’t thought about my broken body for a full ten minutes.  I laughed and smiled and was genuinely happy the entire time Shelley was with me.  I wanted her to come back and keep the magic going. 

For the next three weeks, Shelley continued to show interest in me even when I wasn’t her patient.  When she was on duty, she’d pop her head in to ask about my kids or my dog.  When she heard from other staff members that I had taken my first steps, she came to my room to verify the story and show her disappointment in missing the big milestone.  She made sure to be in the hall the next week when I tried to walk again and as I sat in my wheelchair winded after seven difficult steps, she jumped up and down, clapping and whooping it up.  She was my personal cheerleader.  

Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

I have no idea if Shelley is a disciple of Christ, but she is an exceptional example of what it looks like to obey the second greatest commandment: love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:39). Obeying that command can look like a lot of things.  If I take Shelley as my example, it looks like offering ourselves freely not expecting anything in return.  It looks like being interested in others and making the people around us feel special… because people are special.  It means being people who love others they way we want to be loved.

We all need to be loved and cheered on by personal cheerleaders, especially when we are suffering and feeling alone.  We need to be reminded that we are unique and worthy of friendship.  The best cheerleaders in life are the ones who celebrate our victories and help us find joy when we’ve can’t find it on our own.

Was Shelley an angel sent from God to brighten my day?  I don’t know.  But God has used a donkey to deliver his divine message (Numbers 22)  so, perhaps he used Shelley to encourage me when I was alone and discouraged.  It is certainly plausible.  Our infinite God loves you and me infinitely, literally more than we can understand.  Little joys like a bouncy nurse in love with cats and passionate about her job are certainly within God’s power to deliver his message of love.

Don’t Miss God’s Messengers

How many times have you and I missed God’s message of love because we didn’t recognize the messenger?  In this season of slow recovery, I want to learn, really integrate into my being, the ability to see people as God’s messengers of love. To do that requires deliberately taking my eyes off myself and my circumstances. That’s not easy for a chronically ill person. It’s not easy for a healthy person either. But it is possible, by the power of God in us.

How well are you living out the second commandment? No matter how hard we try, we cannot prioritize others like we do ourselves. We just can’t unless we first learn to love God completely. Love for God will, over time, overwhelm our selfishness and enable us to love others like he loves them. Let’s start by prioritizing loving God and keeping our hearts open to the Holy Spirit as our guide. May we be surprised by how he leads us to show His love to others.

I love sending my subscribers special goodies and encouragement straight to their inbox. One of those goodies is a list of 12 Verses to Help You Endure. I’d love to send it to you.

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