“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
From time to time I will hear someone say, “I would visit, but I don’t know how.” Visiting is a principle element of Christianity, and is something that we should be excellent at doing. I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, but if you feel ill prepared to visit, here are some things I have learned that might be of benefit.
- Go! The excuse of “I don’t know how” isn’t a very good excuse.
- Ask if they want a visit. If someone is having surgery, do not assume that they want company. Some people do, some do not. Please be respectful.
- Don’t plan to stay long. Some people think that for it to be a “good” visit that it needs to last hours. Not true! Many people do not feel like having a lengthy visit. If you know the person well and know their preferences, you can choose to extend it, but do not make the assumption that whoever you are visiting feels as good as you do. Unless there is a really good reason to stay, try to limit your visit to 20-30 minutes. You would rather someone wish you had stayed longer than to say, “I thought they’d never leave.”
- Don’t ask questions (at least, about their illnesses). I know, that may sound strange, but if someone is sick or in the hospital, they may not want to discuss it. (And, you might learn more than you want to.) If they want to talk about it, let them bring it up.
- Offer to help. And if they say there is nothing you can do, accept that answer. More often that not, there isn’t anything you can do to help. On the other hand, occasionally someone will pull out a list of things they need. If and when that happens, joyfully accept the opportunity that you have to be of genuine benefit to someone who can use a helping hand.
- Don’t make the visit about you. This is not the time for you to vent your frustrations about life, complain about your problems, or tell all about your vacation. If they ask questions, try to keep your answers brief, remembering that you are there to encourage and uplift them.
The list could go on and on, but hopefully these things will help you with visiting. Of course the most important thing was stated first: Go! Let us practice this form of “pure and undefiled religion.”