Friday, 9 October 2009
I had reason to take someone to hospital. The waiting room was empty so we sat there reading some old magazines.
(Why are magazines always old at the doctor’s and dentist? The one I read announced the sinking of a ship called Titanic. But I digress).
A few minutes later a man in his thirties came in. He was dressed in scruffy jeans, T shirt and coat. He had long stringy hair and a beard. He sat there mumbling to himself. He looked a bit like a hobo.
A few moments longer and another man came in. He too looked untidy. As soon as he entered the waiting room the first man asked him: “Have you got a smoke?”
The second man handed him a pouch of tobacco and the first man proceeded to roll himself a cigarette – which thankfully he did not light up.
A little while more and a couple came in – a man and a woman. They too looked … not too well in the sartorial department. They cheerfully greeted the others in loud voices: “You’re looking good … your cheeks are rosy … not pale like the last time”.
Others kept coming in … men and women. All looked similar in that some were un-shaven (the men of course), all looked poor and unfed, and all spoke loudly with each other.
“Good Heavens, everyone’s here today …” “How are you doing me old mucker?” and so on and so forth with plenty of fruity expletive bad language to boot.
In conversation one of them pulled out a book entitled “Alcoholic’s Anonymous” and it didn’t take long from their conversations to establish that they were all here together for a regular check-up. One proudly announced that she hadn’t touched a drop for 18 days whilst the others congratulated her for her efforts.
By then I noticed that the other “normal” patients (whatever that means) who had arrived since, congregated at the other side of the large waiting room. Some stood by the door, some waited outside in the corridor, but none said anything about this motley lot speaking loudly. It was obvious that they were being judgmental by their looks and their haughty silence.
I must admit in shame that when they first arrived in the room, I too felt a little uncomfortable and intimidated by their presence. They were not violent. Just loud, unkempt and in some cases obviously sleeping rough. One complained that last night was particularly freezing and he slept wearing his overcoat whilst tucked into the sleeping bag he was carrying with him.
This set me thinking.
Jesus must have met quite a number of people like them in His time. The poor, destitute, down and outs, the sick and the lame. Lepers even. These people were shunned and ignored by society in general.
But how did Jesus react? Unlike me, He was not uncomfortable and intimidated by them. Whether He met them singly or ten lepers at a time.
He reacted with love, pity and compassion. And in most cases He healed them and returned them to a better life.
Years later, Father Damien De Veuster followed Christ’s example and went to help the lepers of Molokai.
Mother Theresa dedicated her life to the poor of Calcutta.
I’m sure you can name others who also did similar charitable works instead of feeling threatened, intimidated and uncomfortable.
As I was!