“What draws you here?” I asked the phlebotomist in the hospital in which I was a guest (no pun intended). He told me the short version of his life-story. It was quite the story, but the punch line rambling through my head long after he’d turned out the lights and quietly exited the room went like this.

“As I crumpled to the floor in the middle of a medical episode next to the deep fryer in the place in which I was working at the time, the only thought I had was, What a sh…. way to die!”

He’d had his struggles, like most of us. And like most of us…it’s always a surprise when the end appears to be closer than we think. It wasn’t the end for him, obviously. Thus, he switched careers for a season, and was now taking good care of others in the setting in which I’d found myself. For this I was not only grateful, but thankful.

Good at his job he was as he freely offered others a window into his world. Fluent he was in three languages, and now he worked within this hospital community. Minutes into the conversation it was obvious he could see the bigger picture. Life circumstances he’d been dealt were out of his control and yet, he rolled with it and was now taking care of his family’s needs by taking care of the needs of others. His hope gave me hope. That much I knew.

I mentioned how exceptional the nursing staff was, and he agreed. “I’ve come to realize that. No doubt the two nursing schools in our community feed into this.” His educational background was coming through…understanding what it takes to build community. To see beyond is always a gift. By sharing his background, he broadened my perspective. I thought he was just another guy doing night shift and getting his paycheck by checking in and checking out. It took mere seconds to see that was not the case. He cared.

Impressive, too, were the CNAs who came at the press of my button, no matter how many times it was pushed. The nurses attended with not only due diligence but with due respect as one came rushing with a robe to match my nifty gown when I decided to take a stroll around the floor. Doctors who hailed from across the world or border stood before me, attending as if I were the only one on their list for the day. Alongside stood their team members, and in and out came the cleaning crew making light chatter…all with a smile no matter the time of day.

I had a roommate. No doubt she wasn’t thrilled to see me being wheeled in, but she spoke kindly from behind the curtain. We exchanged conversation from time to time as she passed the remote for the TV. I offered a prayer for her and she offered one for me…and so went my world for a few days.

It was just another day or two or three in America…worthy of note that all is not doom and gloom on the horizon. People live with purpose and for a purpose beyond themselves…loving their neighbor as themselves. And life just doesn’t get much better than this.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” asked the followers of Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40.

He said to them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

And the second greatest commandment is like it. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 And I was blessed to be the recipient of such love. Don’t let anyone fool you. It’s a crazy culture clamoring to be noticed right now, but behind closed doors, not all is mayhem nor bedlam. People have a living faith, active it is, and I thank God for that. Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug lives on the family homestead outside of Clearbrook with her husband Pete. She enjoys writing about family life and brings humor into the sacred moments of everyday living.

Theology in the Trenches appears in several local newspapers throughout Minnesota. Kathleen can be reached by e-mail at wemenews@gvtel.com


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