October 20, 2015
We all despise waiting, whether it’s in the cashier’s line at the grocery or in the few seconds it takes for a website to appear. We have become hyper-inpatient in this age of instantaneous connection.
I thought about this as I observed eight hundred of our sisters and brothers who accepted the hospitality of our recent Day of Healing and Hope at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville. Our guests waited outside in the street for an opportunity to come inside. They waited to register, to be triaged, for medical attention, for a much coveted chance to see a dentist, for an eye exam, for a pair of glasses, to have their tired and distressed feet bathed and massaged.
There were no complaints coming from the mouths of those waiting. Their attitude and behavior conveyed a sense that these folks were well used to waiting. I don’t think they were happy to wait, but I saw within their eyes that a very distinct complacency, developed over many long years, had settled into their psyches.
People not accustomed to having their hopes realized, gradually, over time, begin to hope for less and less. Their sense of worth and value is diminished. They become very more passive and find themselves drifting aimlessly. They lose interest and lose hope, and then just wait – for whomever, whatever might come into their lives to provide some small recognition of their presence and maybe a hint of their promise.
You don’t have to be poor or living at the margins of our society to experience this type of devastating emotional and spiritual waiting. The other night we had a pizza delivered to our house (not something that happens very often since I’m too cheap to pay the delivery fee). My wife answered the door, and, as the transaction was taking place, she asked the delivery man’s name. That introduced a short interaction about where he went to school, what he was studying, etc. As he was leaving from this simple exchange, he thanked my wife for this conversation, explaining that no one had every recognized him before beyond the “here’s your pizza” – “how much?” – “have a nice day” dialogue.
There are people waiting for recognition and our attention all around us. They may be dashing madly from thing to thing or sitting mesmerized in an anonymous corner. Essentially, all of us crave the positive reinforcement of others – reinforcement that we are valuable, that we have meaning, that we contribute to society and, most importantly, that we are loved.
Hopefully, our Day of Healing and Hope conveyed some of that recognition. Hopefully, all of us will realize that every day has the potential of being a day of healing and hope as we pierce the veil of anonymity and insignificance and look deeply into the eyes and psyches of our patients, their families, our coworkers, our family members, our neighbors, those who serve us in restaurants and shops, those we pass casually on the street. And by doing so, we reaffirm that they are good, valuable, of inestimable potential, and that they are truly loved by God and by us.
Jerry Kearney, D.Min.
Vice President, Mission Integration
Saint Thomas Health