Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The People of the Waiting Room

After about two hours of sitting in the waiting room of the surgical unit at Saint Francis Hospital I had at least a dozen ideas as to how to create a more pleasant waiting experience for people. The aquarium filled with fish darting from side to side, top to bottom, and weaving in and out of faux trees can only entertain a person for so long. After the 25th loop of the morning news and about all I could handle hearing of William and Kate I was ready to redesign the whole room.

Waiting rooms are interesting places. They simultaneously and paradoxically house hopes and fears. People are brought together from varied worlds to the common existence of waiting. There is little to make the time pass faster. Two chairs occupied with diligent card players, a group of people slumped, half sleeping in front of the television, children wearing out already exhausted parents. While we all attempt to take our minds off the anxiety of waiting there is little that actually accomplishes the task.

By mid-morning the doctors begin to filter in and out, sitting next to wives, and children, and siblings, discussing the results of the varied surgical procedures. Some choose to meet in the "consultation room" others simply plop down where the loved one has been waiting. Three hours and still we wait. Doctors come and doctors go, but not the one for which we were waiting.

I made a profound observation today in that holding pattern; waiting rooms can teach us something very deep about Christian Community. Title, class, political party, and social status mean nothing in that room. The people of the waiting room shared stories, thoughts, laughs, and curiosities with each other, all the while everyone was waiting for their news. As we sat, having heard from the doctor but still waiting to be given clearance to head to the recovery room, a woman we had been speaking with earlier came over to ask if we knew anything yet. When we shared the good news she too shared that they were relieved in her family with their own news. As she turned to leave she gently tapped another "waiter" on the arm gently saying, "good luck with everything."

The world outside the confines of the waiting room has a lot to learn from this experience. Cell phones did not work, computers were not available, options for entertainment were limited. At least there were two of us waiting making the wait slightly more bearable. But what we discover when we remove the technology that holds our attention captive on the outside world are the people around us--Community! And opening our eyes to that can make all the difference.

The people of the waiting room have no choice but each other.

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