Helping Those With MCS

A SENSITIVITY to common substances, whether colognes or cleaning agents, presents sufferers with more than a medical problem; it also presents them with a social problem. Humans are gregarious by nature, but multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) forces many otherwise warm, fun-loving people into a lonely life-style. “I have had other health problems in the past,” says Shelly, an MCS sufferer, “but this problem is the worst. The hardest part is the isolation.”

Sadly, MCS sufferers are sometimes seen as oddities. One reason for this, of course, is that MCS is a complex phenomenon that the world has not yet come to terms with. But a lack of knowledge about MCS is no reason to be suspicious of those who have it. The journal American Family Physician says: “These patients are truly suffering as a result of their symptoms.”

Rather than looking askance at people with MCS because their malady is puzzling and poorly understood, a wise person ought to be governed by the principle at Proverbs 18:13: “When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part and a humiliation.” How much better it is to show Christlike love to all those who are ill, without partiality! We will never regret having shown such love, whatever medical science uncovers in the future.

Showing Christlike Love

Christlike love is like a diamond with beautiful facets to suit each occasion or  need. When a friend has MCS, our Christlike love ought to sparkle with empathy, allowing us to put ourselves in his or her shoes. Also, love “does not look for its own interests”—or, we might say, its own rights. It puts the welfare of others first. It helps us to be ‘long-suffering, to bear all things, believe all things, and endure all things.’ Such love “never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

Mary does not have MCS, but some of her friends do. “Personally, I love perfume,” Mary writes, “but I choose not to wear it  when visiting with those with MCS.” In her own way, in imitation of Jesus, Mary is saying, “I want to help.” (Mark 1:41) Trevor developed MCS in infancy. His mother says: “People I have worked with have bent over backward to accommodate my son.” Joy, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses who lives in Australia and suffers greatly from MCS, says that she is encouraged by friends and relatives who visit her regularly and show that they understand her problems.

On the other hand, people with MCS should try to be patient with those who do wear fragrances in their presence. Ernest, quoted in the preceding article, said to Awake!: “Our illness is a burden we have to carry. Other people have their problems too, so we appreciate it when they help us with ours.” Yes, inviting cooperation, not forcing it, is always the best policy. “When someone wearing perfume or cologne asks me why I’m not looking well,” says Lorraine, “I tell her or him, ‘I have a fragrance problem, and it seems to be worse tonight.’ To discerning people, that is often enough.” Of course, that does not mean that if you suffer from MCS you cannot kindly remind friends that you need their help.

On the positive side, Pam, quoted earlier, writes: “All that we suffer now is just temporary.” Why did Pam say “just temporary”? Because her Bible-based hope is that soon God’s Kingdom will rid the earth of all suffering. It will even eradicate death—something that the most healthy person must eventually face.—Daniel 2:44; Revelation 21:3, 4.

Meanwhile, all who have to endure an illness for which there is no cure at present can look forward to the time when, under God’s Kingdom rule, ‘no person will say: “I am sick.”’ (Isaiah 33:24) As we endure whatever trials come upon us in this present system of things, let us all strive to be like Jesus and focus on the prize that is set before us.—Hebrews 12:2; James 1:2-4.

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Showing Love for One Another

The following Bible principles may help you if a friend or a relative has multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or if you have it yourself:

“All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.”Matthew 7:12.

“You must love your neighbor as yourself.”Matthew 22:39.

“Let us consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, as some have the custom, but encouraging one another, and all the more so as you behold the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We all need spiritual encouragement, especially when we are ill. Commendably, many Christians with MCS make the effort to attend congregation meetings in person; others who suffer more severely sometimes attend by means of a telephone hookup. In other instances, fragrance-free areas have been reserved at Kingdom Halls for people with MCS. But this may not always be possible or practical.

“Do not forget the doing of good . . . , for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) Note that doing good often calls for personal sacrifices. Are you prepared to make sacrifices to help someone with MCS? On the other hand, people with MCS need to be reasonable in their expectations of others. Christian elders, for example, cannot make rules about the use of perfumes and colognes, nor may they always be able to make announcements about it. Additionally, newly interested people and visitors wearing fragrances come to congregation meetings—and we welcome them. We certainly would not want to embarrass them or make them feel ill at ease over their use of fragrances.

“Seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11) Obviously, health issues should not rob Christians of peace. “The wisdom from above is . . . peaceable, reasonable, . . . full of mercy,” says James 3:17. Peaceable persons, whether they have MCS or not, would not be extreme or demanding in regard to the use or nonuse of chemical products. Likewise, reasonable persons who are “full of mercy” would also avoid insisting on their right to wear fragrances if they realized that these would affect the health of another person. In this way they demonstrate that they too are seeking “peaceful conditions” and are “making peace.”—James 3:18.

On the other hand, an inflexible, unreasonable attitude, whether on the part of an MCS sufferer or another person, is like a wedge that drives people apart. Such an attitude benefits no one and may even harm one’s relationship with God.—1 John 4:20.

Christians, of course, have a tremendous asset—Jehovah’s spirit. As they regularly petition Jehovah for his spirit, they develop its wonderful fruits, especially love—“a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) At the same time, they patiently allow that spirit to nurture Christlike qualities in others.—Galatians 5:22, 23.

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People with MCS need friends as much as others do