The morning Katrina was having her way with Louisiana and Mississippi, I was sitting in a hospital waiting room, watching the play-by-play coverage of a natural disaster running her course.
A sidebar worth noting is our fascination and voyueristic need to watch a trainwreck in slow motion. It’s sport to us. We have commentators (reporters) on the sidelines, bringing us the “action”, and we can’t wait to get to the end of the game to see the spoils…but in the trainwrecks of life, there are no victors. I cringe at the thought of the barbaric fight of a gladiator (Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius “unleashing hell” comes to mind) and I wonder how a people could be so captivated by bloodlust until I realize I am guilty of much the same. Think about the last time you saw a car accident and rubbernecked a.k.a. Linda Blair to assess the damage…or as recently as Katrina…the Southeastern Asian (and beyond) Christmas 2004 Tsunami, 9-11….we sit transfixed to 24-hour news channels as macabre details unfold.
Ugh….but I digress and become much the drama queen in the process, so I’ll move on 🙂
What brought me to the hospital? Good question. I am convinced it was a divine appointment, nothing short of a God thang, a surreal experience that left me completely humbled, and at the time, speechless and awed.
I was there to visit Teresa, a woman I had never met and who didn’t even know I existed…I had the advantage. Our daughters happen to be friends and through personal circumstance, I learned about her family’s “situation”. They could be the poster family for “down on your luck”. Her husband has been unable to work for some time now; she was the primary breadwinner, but in the past year she has had health issue after health issue after health issue. Debilitating illness, uncertain future. She’s extremely overweight yet her body is malnourished because of disease. She has a feeding tube because her stomach is paralyzed and an IV port due to the incredible amount of medicine she requires. They lost their home, car, looks like a bankruptcy is in their future, she’s received sub-standard medical care (I can’t help but wonder if they’re being discriminated against). She endured a physically abusive childhood only to marry a physically abusive man (first marriage, long over, thankfully a loving second marriage). Currently, when she’s not in the hospital, they’re living in an extended stay motel–she, her husband, middle school daughter and college-age son. It ain’t the Ritz Carlton. Oh, and her oldest son steals from all of them when he comes around and he’s messed up either using or selling drugs. Are you getting a picture?
And yet…AND YET…this woman was BEAUTIFUL! Not once did she utter anything negative; she did answer my questions, she did tell an ugly truth, but she was PRECIOUS. In just a few hours we bonded in a way I have never before experienced. I told her I was there because I loved Jesus and after learning a little bit about their circumstances, I couldn’t NOT come… because we wanted to be His hands and feet in anyway we could (Tad had learned about their need before I had, which was the impetus for my going to visit). We laughed and we cried and we prayed … and a few hours passed in moments.
I didn’t pity her although I felt deeply for her circumstances…they’re awful….but I found myself very humbled and painfully aware of my “riches”, materially and otherwise. She accepted the ways we were able to meet some of their needs in a way that truly challenged me. As I sit here and write, I can’t even articulate her acceptance….there was this silent understanding that “we’re all in this together…and what’s mine is yours”. I know that’s extreme, I wish I was that generous, but that tone was certainly present.
I barely remember the walk from her room to my car…the tears came again. I think they were some kind of emotional release for the utter joy of being Christ to someone who needed Him. It was surreal and amazing. And it makes me hungry for more of Him.
And as the week unfolded and I saw the destruction from Katrina, I was struck with the thought that Teresa WAS a Katrina to me. I may not be in a position to reach the hundreds of thousands devastated by that disaster….but if I slow down…listen to the people around me…I can touch the lives of one…or two…or three, who are experiencing their own tragedies. Not world hunger. Not the masses. But making a difference.