Monday, August 27, 2012

Those Less Fortunate

In psych, most of our patients are homeless.  They were removed from the street for overly bizarre behavior, criminal behavior, or for medical reasons- unresponsive, bleeding, vomiting, and the like.  When they arrive, they are filthy, usually have some external parasites, and a bunch of abrasions and infections in the wounds and on other surfaces.  We won't even mention the internal problems in this posting.

They have only the clothes on their backs.  Literally.  They have a few shirts, usually two coats, ill-fitting pants with holes, no socks, no underwear, and shoes with holes in the soles.  These garments are filthy because the homeless do not have access to washers and dryers.

Taking the last item that a person owns in this world is a very difficult thing to do.  They will battle you to keep their coats, even though it is summertime.  They need their coats for the cold weather.  The streets are below freezing most nights in the winter here, with temperatures sometimes in the single digits.

So most of the staff gives up and doesn't offer them new clothes.  We have new clothes.  They are not beautiful or stylish, but they are clean and functional.  I think we get the irregulars from low-end manufacturers who can't unload the stuff anywhere and "donate" it to the facility for a tax write-off.

A lot of the staff is deeply religious, which strikes me as rather odd, given their behavior.  A lot carry around bibles and read them on the floor (along with their phones).

I tried to use a passage from the Bible to explain why they should help these patients.  This is Matthew 25:34-40 from The Sheep and the Goats.

34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

40 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I read this passage to them from one of their own Bibles. I explained that when you clothe, feed, and care for a patient in need, you are doing this for God. The patients were sent to us so that we may demonstrate how we would care for the Lord.

There were oohs and aahs. Has their behavior changed? No.

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