What does it mean to be “aware” of MS? The easy answer is to be aware of its existence. It gets messier after that. Be aware that it stands for multiple sclerosis. Be aware that it means more than one (multiple) scars (sclerosis) on nerve tissue caused by some kind of attacks that no one seems to have a handle on. (See previous post regarding the lack of handles.)
There. You don’t have MS, but at least you’re aware of it. (Going back over all my MS related blog entries wouldn’t hurt either, he said self-servingly.)
For those of us with MS, awareness comes pretty naturally. Every time we stumble, see double, feel the weird and often painful sensations all over our bodies, drop something with our numb, clumsy hands, lie awake wondering when those excruciating leg spasms will let us sleep, ignore the stares of people who look at us like we’re drunk because we’re walking like drunks, yada, yada. We’re agonizingly aware of MS every day.
Let’s go deeper. Don’t settle for being aware of the disease. Be aware of those living with the disease. Let me suggest a spin on what G. K. Chesterton calls “promiscuous charity.”
Chesterton says promiscuous charity “means the most dark and terrible of all human actions—talking to a man. In fact, I know of nothing more difficult than really talking to the poor men we meet.”
Don’t worry, I’m not asking for your money… yet.
Let me paraphrase that quote to define promiscuous MS awareness: “the most dark and terrible of all human actions—talking to someone with MS.” So many people I know are afraid to ask how I or anyone with MS are doing. The same dynamic is seen when someone loses a loved one. No one knows what to say, so they say nothing. One of the worst feelings a grieving person can experience, similar in many ways to what a person with chronic illness feels, is isolation. But the circumstance, coupled with others’ well-meaning distance, serves to underscore that loneliness.
This week (3/3-9) talk to someone with MS. Ask how they’re doing. Tell them you’re praying for them. Buy someone a cup of coffee. (One thing I’ve learned about people with MS is they love free food. Who doesn’t?) Just hang out and chat.
Or as Jesus so subversively put it, “love one another.”