Thursday, December 25, 2014

Look Down from the Sky

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.

I keep saying that I’m not feeling the Christmas spirit this year due to my medical worries, but this is where you’ll find the real meaning of the holiday.

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…


Jay said...

Amen to that, Rob.

I accepted only a few days ago that I've been trying all these years to recreate the magic of Christmas from my childhood. I think many of us are trying to claw our way back into those enchanted times when all was safe and glittery and full of love and warmth and, well, all good things as we knew them, but I've made an art form of it. There had to be a white damask tablecloth, matching serviettes and pretty wineglasses, crackers, turkey and Christmas pudding with cream etc, (etc, etc) while the Christmas tree sparkled gently in the corner, etc etc.

This year, however, sitting on a folding chair at a table covered with two homely vinyl tablecloths (one of which kept trying to slip off the end) eating chocolate cake and mince pie in custard because our host had dropped the ball on dessert, was one of the most warmly enjoyable I've had for years!

And the lesson is ... ? You can't buy Christmas spirit. You merely have to recognise it. ;)

Rob K said...

Jay, those are such lovely thoughts. We can cause ourselves such pain by resisting change and clinging to a time that no longer exists.

Accepting the new times doesn't mean you are rejecting the old. You just acknowledge that times really have changed and you can enjoy them as well. And then you'll have the real Christmas spirit.

Take care and save a piece of chocolate cake for me!

Ron said...

Rob, what I so love about this post is that you've taken what appears to be a negative and have turned into a positive by seeing the GOOD.

"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."


I can honestly say that this Christmas has been such an eyeopener for me in so many ways that has altered my perception of the TRUE meaning of what this holiday means - LOVE. There has been an "opening" in my heart this year which I am eternally grateful for.

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, buddy, because it has been a catalyst in altering my own perception.

Have a great weekend!

Bijoux said...

Rob, what a beautiful post on the true meaning of Christ coming to us. I hope you are able to enjoy the rest of 2014, worry-free and pain-free.

Rob K said...

Thank you so much, Bijoux. I wish all the best for you and your family in the coming year! Take care.

Rob K said...

@Ron--hey, buddy, what's up?

I think it's so great that you've had such an eye and heart opening experience this Christmas. It really is about love.

That's the real magic and the real meaning of the holiday! Let's make this journey together!

Merry Christmas, Ron!

Stephanie Faris said...

I'm so sorry you had to spend time at the hospital on Christmas Eve...but it is often in those moments that we realize how lucky we are. There seems to always be someone who is having a harder time than us and there's justice in that. I hope you were able to have a good Christmas after that.

Rob K said...

Oh, thank you Stephanie, i had a fabulous Christmas.

I am trying to learn from this. And I wish you all the best for the New Year!

Take care!

Anonymous said...

Hey Rob, I was looking back through posts to see if I missed any and I came across this one. I can't believe I missed it when it was first posted! This is such a touching post! I am guilty of the same thing you were. I look around at times and think "why am I living near these people". You see I live in a tiny apartment in an okay area but not the best. And when I think that way I need to remind myself I am one of "these people". Sure we may not look the same but we have the same struggles and the same joys. Xmas eve is the perfect time to be reminded of that!

Rob K said...

Hey. Shae, better late than never! And thanks!

You are so right, we all have the same struggles and the same joys.

Take care!