The Neighbor Who Stayed

Being ill with a medical condition is not a joke. While some illnesses can be borne alone, some simply require the care of family and friends to help in conquering the struggles that come with it. Unfortunately, not everyone may have someone who is willing to sacrifice the time to make oneself a gift to others in times of need. This, however, does not make it hopeless for those who are ill without significant others for our world shines with hope. This is a story of the hope a good neighbor once brought to a young man suffering from mental and physical sickness.

There was a young man suffering from a sickness of memory and the intermittent inability to make rational thought. One day, a relative found him screaming for help while burning himself as if his mind was not in sync with his body. The man was brought to the hospital and was found to have suffered major wounds which required him to be confined for proper care. The man was confined and, once settled, was abandoned by his relative. It was very visible that the man was confused, both by his confinement and the abandonment. 

Day in and day out, this man only had a few minutes, if not a few seconds, of having some kind of interaction with another human being when medications were administered or quick routine monitoring was done. Into the next week of his confinement, the healthcare providers found relief when they saw a gentleman attending to the young man’s personal needs. The gentleman would feed the young man, bathe him, dress him, and most importantly, converse with him. 

This went on passively acknowledged for a few days until hospital personnel interviewed the gentleman. When he was interviewed on behalf of the young man, who was quite inconsistent and unreliable with facts about himself, it was discovered that the caregiver neither had any personal nor professional relationship with the young man. He simply claimed to be the young man’s neighbor. When further questioned, the neighbor responded that he merely wanted to help the young man as he thought everyone deserved to be cared for and that he saw how the young man was left alone, even by his relatives with whom he lived under the same roof. He mentioned that though the young man did have some burdensome illnesses, he was still a human being and that his illness should have made him all the more deserving of a little extra care and support. It was later found that the neighbor was selflessly providing food and care for others in the hospital who had the same circumstances as the young man.

This story of the neighbor is a manifestation of the communal nature of man – no man can struggle in this world alone, rather we struggle together in an attempt to achieve what is best for all. In WYA’s Certified Training Program, I’ve learned from Charles Malik’s text that man is a struggling and caring being and that man struggles for peace. Meanwhile, Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” taught me how people relate to things and to others and how we must achieve mutual subjectivity amongst ourselves. From these readings, one can’t help but recognize that man does struggle and struggle together, as a people, for peace. 

This calls on us to treat all people as humans, to recognize the value we all have for being part of this specie. Let us not degrade ourselves to mere transit objects fleeting through this world. Let this story of the neighbor remind us of the responsibility we have of keeping our identity as humans, conceived with dignity and eventually to die with it. In our world today, where there is a growing need for an encounter between human beings and a reminder of the value of the person, let this story of the neighbor, a story based on real events, inspire us and guide us to live our lives as humans.

Published: October 7, 2019
Written by Jayj Velez, a New York Headquarters intern from the Philippines

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