It was a very uncomfortable August night a few years ago that gave me new appreciation for one of my favorite biblical images of community. An old neck injury had come back to bother me. It had been acquired several years before, when I was being a bit too daring on a water ski and inadvertently went skipping over the water nine times on my head.
The only real relief from the pain when it recurs is to lie flat. However, I was also plagued at the time with a summer version of the flu, one of its major manifestations being a badly congested head. To lie flat meant to be unable to breathe.
I was trying to decide between the two options--breathing with pain, or not breathing without pain--when friend and Sojourners Community member Dolly Arroyo walked in with a pile of pillows, hoping to arrange a gradual slope for my head that would accommodate both problems. This was only a mild success.
Trying to take my mind off my distress, I pulled out a book to read. But Dolly (she's an occupational therapist) caught me and on her way out the door said, "Remember what the eye doctor said about reading in bed being bad for your eyes." I put the book away.
Dolly returned in a moment with a heating pad, a bag of cough drops, and the suggestion, "Why not take a decongestant?" I explained that since I had nose surgery several years earlier I'm not allowed to use the stuff.
The pillows kept slipping. Sleeping on my side was painful, but on my back I was afraid of choking on a cough drop. And at the moment I couldn't think of anything worse than lying on a heating pad in Washington, D.C., in August.