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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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In silence, shrouded in shadows, we crouch, elbow to elbow, waiting. At the end of our resources, we long for someone to trim our wicks and refire our lanterns. A people without vision—we have lost our way.

Such, too, was the longing of the anawim (the Hebrew word for those who are bowed down), the lowly ones in first-century-Palestine, oppressed by monstrous Roman greed. They longed for deliverance, a deliverance that resonates throughout the Psalms, fruitful prayers to sustain our angst, even today.

A messenger arrives, panting and begrimed from the arduous journey across the mountainous desert. “The word’s out! He’s finally coming! Do hold on!”

Our spirits quicken like ravens frolicking across the sky suffused with dawn-light.

“Little time left! Hurry!”

How to prepare our manger-hearts to receive Him?

 

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There is a line, a long one. Ahead of me are eight customers: a young father returning a boxed-up stroller; a short woman with two packages; another, perhaps, in her last trimester leaning against the island counter paging a novel; a mom jiggling her toddler wearing a sailor shirt; another woman wearing a black beret sealing a box; a construction worker, all brawn, slapping his thigh in rhythm with the bud in his ear; curious daughters rooting around in their mom’s satchel; a black grandfatherly type on his cell; and an office worker carrying a tub of bubble envelopes.

The sole clerk behind the counter smiles as she listens to each customer’s special need. Tension swells the small room like helium inflating balloons. The air is heavy. The door swings open. More step in line, eyes blinking to the overhead fluorescent lights. Outside, December’s dusk shrouds the street. Still the door keeps opening. At the end of the line, neighbors share Christmas plans.

Twenty-five minutes pass. It looked like that young father, stooped over the counter, was having difficulty completing the required forms. More standing on one foot, then, the other. Even harder does the construction worker slap his thigh, tap his steel-toed boot on the tile floor. The reader bookmarks a chapter and stretches. The toddler yawns while fingering his mom’s jacket. The grandfather pockets his cell in his leather coat and arches his shoulders.

There’s something to be said for restraint of tongue. Eventually, help does come.

 

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