It is interesting the different stories and anecdotes that have crossed my path during this journey. I have run into people from various walks of my life at odd times… I have witnessed truths that are both painful and wonderful, it can only mean that you must truly be alive to feel that kind of emotion -yet you also know that means this can’t be all there is. This world is just too broken and hard on the heart to be all there is. I have spent careful time with several of the characters who have played a role in my life and remembered that God gives me strength through the love of others. It has been such a bittersweet and unique time – I wonder what the other end of this could possibly look like. But the thing that is most true is nothing – for good or bad- is forever. Everything in this life is just for a season and I know that is something that has offered me peace and comfort.
The piece of the story that is on my heart today is something my Dad shared with me as we spent time in Baltimore. A story of a priest who had a very unique life- he lived as a professional athlete and then as a homeless person. He experienced the opposite feelings of being so admired to being completely ignored and as a result built a mission from what he learned: the homeless suffer from so much, but the absolute worst thing being loneliness. They spend their lives being treated like a ghost people can just look through… look past… flat out ignore. They miss human interaction… human touch… connecting. Being in Baltimore there are so many sad people walking those streets – this story was so powerful that I thought about it most of our hospital stay.
When Danny is in the hospital during previous stays we took walks together, ate together, truly navigated the situation together. During transplant that was not the case. Once my parents were in the clear to head home, I spent a lot of time walking the halls alone. Meals I ate by myself and my real conversations only came when I could get a friend on the phone.
Thankfully I am blessed that if I needed it – anyone would answer- but sometimes I felt like I had to respect people still being in their regular lives. Our friends have families and careers and their own life to manage…. and I felt the need to respect that as much as I could. Heck – that life is all Danny and I have been trying to get to – days that are busy with jobs and kids: just life! It only felt right that I should let people live in those moments, they are precious.
So as I spent this time alone I wondered what people would see … I wondered what I saw. In the hospital it is very normal for people to look like shells of themselves. Weary from long hours of surgery waiting… haggard from an ER visit … exhausted from some sort of family decision. Some people meet your eye and share a knowing look, but most often not. It’s these ghosts of sorts that make up the support system of patients and we seem to drift aimlessly among the hospital staff. They bustle around – getting their meals, on their cell phones, living life- this is their normal! They go confidently to the sandwich line or push through a set of doors with such decisiveness and precision… while the rest of us just look jazzed and confused.
It never takes me long to start quietly observing the visitors. I wonder what they have faced or what news they have gotten that has changed their life. What medical marvel are they praying for or the yoke of burden they are taking up. And as my mind wanders it’s not long before I begin to imagine people just telling their story aloud. Would we be shocked by what was shared? Would our personal experience suddenly feel easy? Would we hug the person in the most pain- human to human? Yet we never utter the words- thus we feel overlooked. For me personally I have often teetered on ordering my lunch and screaming out- do you know what is weighing on my mind? But, luckily, so far I have just kept going- shuffle along as one of these visitors.
When my dad shared with me the story of this priest… my heart just broke. I feel seen through just as a weary hospital visitor- temporarily- and yet there are people that live with that affliction as their whole existence. Do they want to cry out and they just don’t? If we knew their story would we stop?
Loneliness is an ugly thing and painful emotion. Please join me in praying for all those who feel it right now. And let us make a special intention for those who live it. Humans need to be acknowledged and loved – even just by being friendly to one another. Just last week as we pulled into the Hopkins parking garage a young homeless man with a sign stood by our car. I made eye contact and gave him a smile. Danny said, “no offense, but I doubt all he wants is a smile”…. he is right, he wants to feel a connection – and I hope in some small way he did.
Thank you so much for reading and remember to make it a great day!