Friday, January 11, 2013

Showing Compassion to the Sick

Many organizations are busy trying to make the transition to life in Korea less hectic and difficult for foreigners.  A religious sister of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul starts her column in the Peace Weekly with the words of our Lord: " At sunset, all who had people sick with a variety of diseases took them to [Jesus] and he laid his hand on each of them and cured them."

The sisters manage a medical clinic free of charge for foreign workers. Workers from many backgrounds and races come to the clinic asking for help, often using the only language they know: their own.  With joyless, weary faces they find their way to the clinic. Each one in his or her own way making known their ailment.

"Auntie, this thing here hurts."  Pointing his finger to his stomach: "What's wrong?" asks a man from Uzbekistan. 

"It is not auntie, say, sister, sister." the sister added a new word to  his vocabulary cheerfully.

Another, a Chinese woman, asks if it's possible to be recycled. Sister tells her the clinic is not a department of rehabilitation facility. The woman, who works twelve hours a day, says that her shoulders hurt, and she came for acupuncture.

Most of the foreigners who come to the clinic are illegal foreigners who have no medical insurance, and when sick, they can't go to a hospital. When there is strict  enforcement of the law, these workers are in serious trouble; as an illegal they can be forced to leave the country. They often work long hours doing work most Koreans would shun. The work is difficult and  the pay poor, the sister says, and their language skills are minimal. But there is little they can do to redress the situation, the sister adds. Only if they are in good health can they make a go of it.

We listen to their complaints, the sister says, and prepare them for an examination, taking blood pressure readings, examining blood, and giving medicine. And at all times extending the hand of love to them, in this lonely and cheerless place. When they call us auntie, she says, there is no problem. Hopefully, they will receive a little warmth and consolation from their encounter with us.


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