I came across this story in AMI Magazine.
Caring for the Sick (translations are in parentheses)
by Baila Weinberg
Take care of your brother – or you might be next.
The Maggid of Kelm once visited a city where he was told that the only Jewish hospital was in danger of closing, due to lack of funds.
“Why don’t you approach the wealthy men in your city and ask them to keep it open? the Maggid asked.
“unfortunately, we have tried, without success,” was the response. “The rich mean feel it is not their problem. In any case, when they take ill they can afford the most expensive private doctors, and have no use for the hospital. Thus, the hospital is in terrible shape, without adequate sanitary equipment, supplies, or even medicine.”
“Let me see what I can do,” the Maggid said.
The custom in those days was that the Maggid would address the entire community, delivering a rousing drasha (sermon) between Mincha and Maariv (afternoon and evening services). This was a time when everyone was in shul, and would be most receptive to hearing divrei mussar (words of rebuke).
The Maggid ascended the podium after Mincha, and a pin-drop silence settled over the crowd. The Maggid was known for his powerful, fiery addresses, which usually found their mark.
This time, the Maggid began with a story:
“As you know, dear fellow Jews, we learn in Parshas Vayechi that the Shechina, the Divine Presence, rests upon the head of a choleh, a sick man.
“One day, the Shechina came to HaKadosh Boruch Hu with a complaint. ‘Master of the Universe! You keep on sending me to the poorest homes, where sick, wan people are lying on the threadbare mattresses or lumpy sacks, without even a pillow or blanket. It tears my heart to see their gaunt, pale faces, evidence of a life of poverty and privation. Even during the harshest blizzards their tiny cottages are frigid, and an icy gale penetrates the cracked windows.
“‘To add to my pain and sorrow, the sick man’s children usually wander about, threadbare and barefoot, their stomachs swollen with hunger. There is no money for bread, let alone to call a doctor and give the poor man a decent chance of survival. Ribono Shel Olam! I can’t bear the pain anymore.
“‘Please, Hashem, send me to the homes of the wealthy, where at least I will be hosted in a warm, well-heated home, where the patient will be lying on a soft, comfortable bed, attended to by the best doctors. Why shouldn’t I witness healthy, well-fed children and an atmosphere of hope?’
“The Ribono Shel Olam replied, ‘You are right. I will do your bidding.’ And from that day onward, the rich men began to get sick. Wherever there was a lavish home, there was a sick man, r”l. And the Shechina was satisfied. She rested in clean, well-kept homes, where sadness didn’t shout from every corner.
“When the rich men realized what was going on, they quickly built a hospital for the poor. Let the pauper have a clean, warm place to rest his body, and a doctor to cure his illness, so that the Shechina should have a place to rest.
“But today, Rabosai,” the Kelemer Maggid shouted, “if you don’t want to give any more money to support the hospital, the Shechina will, once again, be forced to visit your homes.”
The Maggid’s words had their desired effect, and the hospital services were restored.