This was no way to spend Christmas Eve.
Usually on the night before Christmas I like to go out on the town. Check out the holiday displays in Manhattan, take in the crowds of tourist that flood the city, and then hit a few bars to spread the good cheer…better known as getting plastered.
This year, however, I sat in a crowed waiting room at Lutheran Medical Center hoping to get an audience with the surgeon who has been monitoring my condition since my trip to the hospital last month.
I hated hanging around here on the day before the big holiday, but it was such a struggle to get this appointment that I couldn’t give it up.
So I grabbed an empty chair and hoped someone would call my name sometime before midnight. The place was cramped and stuffy, and since this was a hospital, I fretted about all the horrible germs that were just itching to pounce on me.
There were a number of people with kids and one couple wheeled around a frail elderly woman in a wheelchair who just had a few wisps of hair on her head.
One man, who was clearly emotionally disturbed, suddenly slammed his puzzle book to the floor and shouted “tu madre!” at a woman sitting across from him. She had been swinging her legs back and forth for several minutes, which had apparently infuriated this guy.
His companion quickly rose from his chair, spoke soothingly in Spanish to the angry fellow and encouraged him to change his seat.
Oh, God, I didn’t want to be here with…these people. Yes, I’m ashamed to say that I actually used that phrase…these people. I thought I was a better person than that, but clearly I have a long way to go.
All Ye Faithful
And who were they exactly, these people? They were the poor, non-white, non-English speakers who had no place else to go for healthcare. The kind of people whom Jesus—the birthday boy--loves so dearly.
After all, Christmas tells the story of a poor, homeless family of non-English speakers who are forced to spend a freezing night with animals in a manger. All of a sudden that hospital waiting room didn’t look so bad.
Yeah, I didn’t want to be here, but then none of the people around me wanted to be here either. In many ways, this place was as holy and blessed as any church. Maybe even more so.
Not in a mall or some rowdy saloon filled with drunken twits wearing Santa hats—but here, among people who are broke, ailing, and frightened.
It turned out my surgeon had worked an emergency shift the night before and wasn’t around.
I spoke briefly with his replacement, who, being the second stringer, didn’t know much about my case. I went home, feeling somewhat annoyed that I had waited for a guy who wasn’t even in the building.
I didn’t realize until much later that I had received a fabulous gift by spending time in that waiting room.
The city is still reeling from the senseless murder of two police officers. A tornado ripped through Mississippi on Tuesday killing four people.
Tragedy doesn’t look at the calendar before it strikes and it never takes a day off, so I feel truly blessed to have spent the day with my dear auntie and sister.
The real magic of Christmas is being grateful no matter how bad things are, being able to open your heart to others, and always remembering that those people are really our people.
And to all a good night…