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Snippets of stories heard from the other side of the curtain:

“That you, Jake!—Get me your ma!—Quick!” The muffled voice speaks with urgency, the palm of her hand thrumming the handrail of the gurney. On the other side of the curtain heavy breathing punctuates the drama. “Yeah—You got it—I’m in the ER—With a nosebleed. I’m full of packing.” Hours pass until her discharge to the nursing home.

“Your blood sugar’s down to 550—Down 200 since you’ve been with us,” the nurse says as she yanks the curtain behind her revealing muddied work boots atop the gurney. He moans, turns over. “If it keeps going down like this, we can let you go home by evening. Either that or keep you overnight to monitor you—At any rate we gotta figure out a way to keep you supplied with insulin.” More hours pass until his discharge.

“What’s happened here?” asks the doctor wearing green scrubs as he fingers the stethoscope around his neck and steps behind the curtain.

“You see—It’s like this—My mama fell off the porch and cut her head on the driveway.” Her words ache with fear. “Bleeding all over the place—She’s no business out there alone—I always tell her that—But she forgets—She’s all I got!” She stifles a sob. Still more hours pass until my room is available. As I leave the unit, I wish them God’s blessing. The toothless matriarch beams, her wound cleaned and sutured as she awaits more tests.

Such stories mitigate suffering and disclose the Compassionate Observer within our midst.

 

 

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“I can’t!” says a towheaded three-year-old, leaning upon the handlebars of her blue bike and looking up at her mother. Her sneakers grip the asphalt path in the park, alive with birdsong. Ahead, breezes tease the leafing weeping willow like a violinist tuning his strings before a performance.

“Oh, but you can!” says her mother steadying the seat of her bike supported by training wheels. “You’ve done so well—this first time out. And look how far you’ve come—And we’re so close to home.”

She looks over his shoulder, then slowly grins. “Yeah!”

Is it not all about balance? Managing to schlep through challenges whenever and however they come?

In a deeper sense, it seems like life’s developmental challenges also require “training wheels:” parents, teachers, coaches, mentors, pastors, supervisors, counselors, doctors, lawyers—the list goes on. The secret is to know whom to approach when swamped by yet another glitch. Only with its resolution do we grow and become more helpful to others.

Indeed, such daily discipline enables practiced souls to rely upon Spirit of Truth to steady their spirits and lead them to their ultimate home. It works that way.

 

 

Flashing lights crazed an otherwise seamless afternoon: leafing trees flickering in the sunshine, flowering shrubs scenting the air, crooning infants heartening their moms and dads.

Emergency vehicles stopped at the corner bungalow and parked. Doors flipped opened. Firemen fastened their vests and grabbed axes. Paramedics hefted their bags over their shoulders and set up a gurney. Neighbors gawked from the sidewalk.

As I sat in my car, I prayed. For years, I had walked past this bungalow obscured by a distressed ash, an overgrown Chinese elm, and scraggly hedges. Neglect oozed through the papered-over windows, through the broken screens, through the rusty chain-link fence enclosing the backyard tangled with chicory, through the storm door listing on its hinges. No one seemed around—an abandoned house, or so I thought. I continued to pray as I drove home.

Yet, last month’s whirring of the air conditioner in the side yard had given me pause.

Fast forward to this afternoon’s crisis. Help of various kinds was on its way to the occupant, perhaps homeless in his/her own home, or perhaps having transitioned out of here.

The air conditioner was whirring the next morning as I took this photo.

 

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