Atul Gawande in his 2014 book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End says that American health professionals have a formal classification system for the level of function a person has. This may not matter much for young and healthy people, but it is important for aging men and women who find it increasingly difficult to maintain their levels of lifestyle or efficiency. They mainly fight a battle against time. They find themselves outpaced by technology, their health keeps deteriorating, their brain power reduces. They become increasingly lonely, and they are not able to find a purpose for living.
Gavande lists the following eight independent activities of daily life:
1. Shop for yourself
2. Prepare your own food
3. Maintain your housekeeping
4. Do your laundry
5. Manage your medications
6. Make phone calls
7. Travel on your own
8. Handle your finances
The ability to perform these actions distinguishes those old people who can live an independent life from those who cannot.
Until last month, I could do all the above things and many more on my own, at my age of 74. But a freak accident threw my life out of gear. As of now, I am not in a position to meet most of these indices. But in the immobilised state that I am today, there is one great thing I am certainly capable of – I can read the Bible. St Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Well, if St Paul can, why not me?
One of the common words of the Bible that I find captivating is the indefinite pronoun “all”. God is so inclusive. He gives all things to all his children. I just have to ask, and I receive. And even before I ask, he knows what all I really need. He satisfies all my needs and even desires.
That is why St Paul’s statement is not one of arrogance or overambition. It is an affirmation of faith. Because when St Paul wrote that, he was in fact facing intense persecution and in no position to do anything at all.
Among “all” the things that God gives me is faith in a seemingly hopeless situation. That helps me to believe firmly that the things I cannot do today I will certainly do tomorrow. Not on my own, but with the strength that he will provide.