A Cup of Water

Former Chaplain Linda Miller, MDiv, MA, CTCA/Southwestern Regional Medical Center

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward. - Matt. 10:42

Each one of us can remember a time when we were sick, I mean really sick. The kind of sick where you can't get out of bed, or if you do, you have to literally drag yourself to the kitchen for a drink of water or drag yourself to the bathroom to relieve yourself.

I don't get sick very often, but I remember right before Christmas in 1999, I had a bad case of the flu. You know the symptoms: pains and aches in the joints, fever, chills and more than just a queasy stomach. Getting to the kitchen was too long a journey, so my husband would leave me a large glass of water and my homeopathics before he left for a day. I remember how thirsty I'd get because of the fever; my mouth and lips felt dry as a bone. You know the feeling.

Alone in my bed, I felt vulnerable. Even though there was no apparent reason to be afraid, I felt safer if someone was around. I was all alone during those days. When my husband came home in the evening, it was like my room suddenly brightened. I felt safer. I knew I could get that cup of cold water I wanted to wet my dry mouth. I didn't need to make a tremendous effort to get up and drag myself to the kitchen. A helper had come. I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Recently, I visited an elderly man who was a lot sicker than I was that Christmas. He'd had a stroke and now was suffering with a terminal illness. With my chair close to his bed, we visited, his one blue eye looking closely at me. Speaking more slowly than most, he told me about his children, his former jobs and his church. I felt God's compassion reach out to him as he shared his feelings of loneliness.

After awhile, he wanted to sleep and asked for the head of the bed to be lowered, but before I could get up to go to the other side of the bed, he began talking again. "See this?" he said, rubbing his finger on his eye brow. "See here?" as he used his finger tips to pick up the flaccid eyelid to open and expose his other blue eye. I noticed how large his hands were.

Then, "Please, I want to go to sleep; please put my head down." As I was moving over to press the mechanism to lower the bed, I heard him say, "Would you give me a cup of cold water?" I was suddenly alerted in my spirit. It was as though Jesus was speaking to me. God speaking through an elderly man with one opened blue eye -- alone and lonely in his sickness. Filling the cup of water, my visit suddenly turned into a tangible God-encounter. "If anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones ..." I poured the water into the cup and helped it to his mouth, all the while feeling God was entreating me in some way. It seemed I was on holy ground.

Could I see God in an old man with big hands and one blue eye? "A cup of cold water" - an insignificant act, and yet to Jesus this small kindness would not go unnoticed.

Reflecting, I recalled Mother Theresa and her work with the destitute people in Calcutta -- the despised, forgotten, naked, sick, dying, those so riddled with disease that most would never go near them. I could see her in her simple white garb tending to the dying. She often expressed the thought, "When I touch the poorest, the neediest, the dying, I'm touching Jesus."

My little bout with the flu in 1999 was nothing compared to the devastating illnesses of those in India, or that of the elderly gentleman I encountered. Yet, I could identify in a small way with the feeling of aloneness and the need for someone to be there to give me a cup of water or a pat on the hand. Can we allow ourselves to be touched in our spirits by others and, in that, know we have been touched by God? Can we hear God in the plea of the sick and dying? What about our neighbors, co-workers, family, or friends? Is there anyone we know who needs a touch of kindness? The smallest deed of kindness can create joy, peace, or a sense of belonging in the heart of another.

Can we give a cup of cold water or a cup of kindness to a thirsty, fellow traveler?

For me, I'll never forget my encounter with God as I visited with an elderly man with one open blue eye.

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matt. 10:42

Lord, help us see you in those we encounter today. Would you open our ears to hear with your ears and open our eyes to see with your eyes? Lord, thank you for the opportunity to give a cup of cold water to someone who is thirsty. Amen.

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