Author: Emily Chambers Sharpe
House of Mercy started a blog in December, quietly, offering people a worksheet to fill out with intentions. We want to continue to use this space to promote mediation and prayer that makes this world a better place. As we launch some new content, I started by pondering the first part of our mission statement:
House of Mercy’s mission is to give witness to the compassion and love of God to people living with HIV/AIDS while embracing the values of the sacredness of life, justice, human dignity, service, and integrity.
This blog, and our work, really is about giving witness, often to people who are marginalized. I want to invite you into our work of witnessing God’s compassion and love, through my take on a litany, below. I share stories that the staff and residents at House of Mercy experience, and after each story, offer a refrain of prayer starting with “We bear witness to the compassion and love of God…”
We Bear Witness: A Litany on God’s Compassion and Love among People Living with HIV/AIDS
Sometimes the proof of love is in shared celebration. In July, our residents grilled out for July 4th, as many of you probably did, and enjoyed the local fireworks show. In the decades of House of Mercy’s existence, there were many years when residents were too ill for that kind of outing.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God in the scientific advancements and corporate agreements that progressed medical treatment, extending life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Sometimes we see the compassion of God in a doctor’s office. In a recent doctor’s office visit, a doctor informed a resident that the best treatment option is palliative care. Shirley, our Director of Nursing, helped the resident understand what this means. Later, the doctor took a moment to thank Shirley for the tender compassion and high-quality care she provides for this resident.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God when medicine and science do not have a cure, serving the sick with dignity and hope.
Sometimes we see the love of God in creation. One resident grows tomatoes and peppers near the house, nurturing each plant and enjoying the harvest with meals or snacks. This resident eyes the bird feeders to be sure they are never empty. To this resident, life in creation is sacred.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God as our residents embrace the value of sacred life, giving us an example to follow.
Sometimes we recognize compassion in civil authorities. This month, we heard positive progress after months of no word at all from the Social Security Administration that one of our former charity care residents received benefits. This resident had no form of identification and Shirley spent many days working with authorities across several states to track down documents. The two made many visits to government offices and sat for hours in crowded waiting areas. For this resident with more than one chronic condition, Social Security benefits will provide a steady source of income for the first time in his life.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God in the provision of programs that are a safety net to those in need, administering justice that looks a lot like mercy.
Sometimes we see love in the long lives of people living with HIV. In our spring newsletter, we honored a long-term survivor of HIV, Mel Tomlinson, who passed away in February from an unrelated illness after decades of living well with HIV. In June, we celebrated HIV long term survivors’ day and recognized the aging population living with HIV, including a few of our residents.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God in extending the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, showing us the miracle of healing in our day.
Sometimes the darkness of the HIV epidemic has threatened or frightened humankind. Through many difficult moments, House of Mercy staff shepherd souls from this life into the next. In the HIV epidemic as a whole, there are long battles between the best and worst of humanity. The best of humanity keeps rising up with compassionate care, rejection of stigma and discrimination, innovative science, supportive policies, and so much more. House of Mercy is the Sisters of Mercy’s continued offering from this best part of who we are.
We bear witness that, in spite of the darkness, the light shines, giving reason for hope.
We bear witness to the compassion and love of God to people living with HIV/AIDS, and because of that great love, we embrace life, justice, service, and dignity for all people.