When I was in Indiana’s Amish country, one place had a sort of working museum of Amish life. There we walked through a typical Amish home. In the living room, close to the wood stove that heated the main part of the house, there was a sick bed or fainting couch. This couch didn’t just sit there when people were sick and then moved away when all were well, the couch itself waited their, made up as a bed for anyone who might become sick. There was an acknowledgment of the fact that sickness happens. Just as we have a medicine cabinet in case of illness, so too was there a time when sick beds, close to a source of heat, were prepared for the event of an illness.
We hide our medicines in medicine cabinets. Often we don’t even know exactly what we have. When that happens we just run to our pharmacy and get more medication or call the doctor. In either case, it is easy to wait for the illness rather than being prepared. Our preparations are more along the lines of a flu shot which should help us avoid the illness altogether.
The sight of the fainting couch or sick bed in the living room reminded me that we don’t acknowledge sickness much. It’s a shadow that we don’t like to see. We like to think that perfect health will keep out all sickness. However, perfect health is about balance and we cannot have health without some level of sickness. How do we know what wellness is if we never have sickness?
I’m not saying to be really healthy we must also spend a great deal of time really sick. However, we must acknowledge that most everyone gets at least a little sick. The more we acknowledge that and allow ourselves to rest by a heat source with no heroics involved in how much we can keep pushing ourselves while sick, the healthier our bodies will feel. Sickness is not necessarily the lack of health. Lack of health happens when we fail to acknowledge our sickness and continue to act as if we are well. Sickness is often our body’s way of signaling that something in our life needs to change or pause for awhile.