I am an Observer. I like to watch the nuances of activity around me. Sometimes it is the relationship between strangers as they go about their moments. Sometimes I imagine how this young couple met, or the story behind an elderly couple holding hands as they meander in the grocery store aisle. Sometimes I catch the eye of another Observer as he or she is imagining my story. I suppose we all do that in some way.
Yesterday, was no different as I sat waiting in a doctor’s office once again. Yet, in truth everything was different. The gleaming steel, clear planes of glass, and plastic chairs said “Yes, I am shiny and new and clean, welcome”.
The masked patients sitting chairs apart would warily sit as if wondering, “Are you really clean? Who has sat here before me? Were they sick? Will I be sick for keeping this appointment?” Fear riddled their faces, they were alone, as was I. As I observed my fellow sojourners into the Wild, Wild, Western Wing of the medical building, I couldn’t help but think that I must be the youngest person in the room. However, I chuckled to myself and thought perhaps they thought the same thing or at least the Observers in the room.
The outside door opens and the heat rushes in briefly followed by two elderly women. They appear to be in their late seventies, one holding the door for the other as they enter and walk to a glass wall, a barrier behind which sits a woman in a mask. There is a familiarity in their walk, one placing her hand on the small of the back of the second as if to ground her for stability. This sturdier woman was wearing a mask and yet the frailer one seemed to be the patient and her lips had a beautiful pink shade of lipstick. As they step up to the desk she must have been chastised for this lapse of face covering. She exclaims that she forgot her mask and while the other soothes her, the competent woman behind the glass passes one through the small gap in the glass. She is told to sign in and then given a clipboard of paperwork which her friend holds as they walk to the far gleaming chairs.
I turn my attention back to my sheaths of paper; I catch the eyes of another Observer. I believe that she is smiling. I smile back and wonder if she can catch the wrinkles around my eyes saluting this greeting. I wondered about the two women. They must be two friends or perhaps sisters and could never have imagined visiting a doctor in such a foreign way. It was certainly surreal for me as I kept scratching my nose hoping to catch brief wisps of non-carbon dioxide laden air. We wear masks that disconnect us with this hope and belief that we are protecting ourselves and yet this observation of the two women deemed otherwise. It seems a fool’s errand to believe that masks alone are the method for prevention. What about all that transference of particles between fingers to face or adjusting our masks to pens and papers and clipboards and handles, yikes? Also, I wasn’t the only lemming in the room who furtively took guppy breaths of air when they thought no one watching. I am an Observer after all.
As I considered those few moments, I felt a familiar sadness descending upon me. As a physician in the United States as well as in Rwanda there are those moments when you know the skills you possess or the resources you have fall short of what the patient needs. It is a helpless weightiness that I tend to carry which can become quite heavy with time. I imagine it as a ball and chain tethered to my heart. With age I have become better at praying in the moment for the things I cannot change and yet trust in a God who can. Sometimes though, especially on mission trips, these moments need to be carried as I return home. They are meant to remind me daily of a purpose that is never done, a weight that I am meant to carry.
This season has seen the world coming to a halt from a virus that in our mind’s eye is the boogey man in the closet. The moments of weightiness are carried independently and uniquely. In my emotional carry, they come with a sense of sadness. I am sad for the losses of life but more so for those left behind. However, my greatest sense of sadness originates in a world that has changed for those dying alone or weddings postponed, children waking in fear, and their parents settling down at night with it. This seemingly random sense of sadness can be provoked by the smallest of things such as a vacationing family walking through the grocery store with even the littlest one wearing some trendy version of this required accessory. We heard so much talk in the political season about building a wall or not building a wall, but it seems that the world has created figurative walls around ourselves without so much as a boo. Life is changed. Sometimes it makes me sad. For others these random moments inspire fear, anxiety, despair, and hopelessness. Please don’t watch the television as there is nothing comforting there.
“Dr. Pyle, Dr. M is ready to see you”, the nurse pulling back the glass in increments. My musings halted and I jump up and gather my things to follow the nurse. I look back and I can see the two women working together on her form. They are laughing a little. It is a sweet twinkling sound. It is beautiful. I am thankful.
The nurse ushers me into the room and rapidly pulls out this multitask machine which takes blood pressure, pulse, etc. She was efficient but friendly. However, when she leaned down to measure my blood pressure, my breath caught. In big bold letters written specifically for the patient to see by its position on her arm was a tattoo. It said:
JESUS LOVES YOU
As a follower of Jesus this simple reminder were the three simple words I needed to hear. But also, as a follower of Jesus, I know these words were meant for you too. I don’t know who you are, what you believe, or don’t believe but I know this for a fact, and you can take it to the bank, JESUS LOVES YOU! I thanked her for being bold and that I wish I could be a fly on the wall to watch all the responses she received. I am an Observer after all. I prayed my two ladies would see the same nurse.
As I left the confines of the building, stepping into the thick summer Southern air, I pulled my mask and looked up at the sky. I gave thanks for my day, for my ability to go to the doctor, for the two ladies in the waiting room, and even that darn mask. But most of my gratitude was for Jesus and the woman with the bold tattoo. Thank you.
I chose the photo of my granddaughter Emery because quite frankly it makes me happy. Going through photos and reliving those cherished moments is a good way to bring a little joy and thankfulness into your world and GRATITUDE WORKS EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.