My brother is mildly retarded, yet competent in debating politics and straightening you out about pro football team standings. He’s an encyclopedia of 80s rock music and can pronounce the names of dinosaurs as if reciting poetry.
He lives on his own in an apartment. He doesn’t like to cook, clean house or do other chores. It’s 11:00 AM, so he’s at his fulltime job of 31 years: hand rolling and twisting dough at the pretzel factory.
In my car trunk are frozen homemade meals and clean bed sheets. I have the key to my brother’s apartment, so I’ll pop in, restock the freezer, change the sheets and towels and vacuum the floor.
As I exit the highway, I see a man in a lightweight jacket. He’s holding a cardboard sign. He appears to be about the same age as the temperature – barely in the 30s. The cardboard message says, “Anything will help.” I open my passenger-side window. Eyes peeled for this, the man sprints to my car. I hand out a bill from the side of my wallet where I keep larger denominations.
“God bless you!” he says, shivering.
As I pull away, I think, He didn’t wake up one day and set a goal to be begging on the streets. Something happened. Something broke… I burst into tears.
I see my bottle of “Smart” water on the seat and wonder why I didn’t give that to the man. The big, warm coat I’m wearing would fit him. And all those meals in the trunk…
I let myself into my brother’s apartment. I set the cooler full of frozen meals down, open the freezer door and, shit! it’s still full of the meals I’d set in a month ago. I rearrange frozen containers and cram more in.
Lying on top of the kitchen trash can is a bag from the corner sub shop. Based on the receipt stapled to the large bag, my brother gorged on a 2000-plus calorie meal loaded with cholesterol and sodium on Friday. In the living room trash can sits another receipt from Sunday for the same kind of killer meal. My brother is obese and has congestive heart failure. He is one heartbeat away from another emergency trip to the hospital or worse. I know he knows this.
Why would someone purposely taunt death?
I burst into tears.
Jaggy, black sarcastic comments swirl in my mind. I hate this. I don’t want to be mad at my brother. I don’t want to be mean to him. My heart literally aches with frustration, anger, fear, bewilderment, helplessness. Is helping my bro somehow backfiring, having the opposite effect on him? What can I say to make him take better care of himself?
As I drive home, I holler into the blurred windshield, “God, counsel me! Jesus, help me! Holy Spirit, tell me what to do, what not to do! Help my brother!”
My brother must be terribly troubled inside to do the opposite of what his flock of doctors and everyone who cares about him tell him.
I don’t want to give up on my brother.
I know I’m to show him God’s love in action. Haven’t I been doing that? Am I doing it wrong? Is there a greater good that’s going to come from my brother’s suffering? Good for whom? If my struggles are helping me be more like Jesus, can we do it without making my brother’s pain my lesson book?
I’ll continue doing what I can for him. My brother will continue doing what he wants. And we’ll both suffer.
I hold out hope, hope that the Holy Spirit will heal my brother’s troubled thoughts and help him make better choices
Spiritual guidance from you, dear blog reader, is welcomed.