Many of us have been in Emergency Rooms before. For whatever reason, large or small, we have found ourselves waiting for hours to be seen by a doctor. Any waiting room, especially that of an ER is a kind of catch-all for all kinds of people. It’s where we all come together, forced to share space and confront the fact that, though we may come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, we all have to wait together. This was where Kristen was in October of last year. It was last few months of her internship with LTN and she was waiting in the ER with her roommate.
Kristin wasn’t doing outreach, she wasn’t in church or volunteering at an LTN partner site. She in an ER, the last place she expected to be, and the last place she expected to be doing outreach. The girls had to wait for hours, and as they were waiting a man in a wheelchair rolled in. Kristin immediately noticed him obviously in pain, and even more obviously, he was there alone.
As the hours passed, many people showed up to keep the girls company, but no one showed up for the man in the wheelchair. Restless, Kristin walked out into the hall and listened to a podcast; she could feel God tugging on her heart, but toward what she didn’t know . The man in the wheelchair rolled himself out of the waiting room and into the hallway where Kristin was pacing. She noticed his red shirt with ALIVE printed in bold white letters and recognized it from a local church’s baptism celebration. She wondered if he knew what it meant. As he went back into the waiting room, one of Kristin’s friends showed up with dinner for her crew. As she ate, she watched the man, still in pain,begin to have a seizure. Someone called a nurse over, but he seemed to be okay so he was told to wait just a little longer. Her heart was drawn to this guy, but she fought it.
“What would I even say to him?” she thought, even after ten months of LTN outreach, it was still hard to approach a stranger.
Kristin walked into the hallway to pray, knowing that she couldn’t go back in without speaking to the man.
“What do I have to lose?” she thought, asking God for the strength that she could not seem to muster herself. Eventually she could no longer sit in the hallway, so she took a deep breath and walked back into the waiting room.
“Hey man, how are you doing?” she asked him.
“Not good.” He answered, and that was all it took.
They slipped into an easy conversation about why he was there, his past addiction, his two month long sobriety, the daughter that he lost 9 years ago, and his t-shirt. He didn’t know where it came from before he picked it out at Goodwill. He liked it because it reminded him of how grateful he was to be alive, and how he still believes in God.
She shared about her life, why she was in Louisville, and her passion for climbing and cycling. They talked about their tattoos: his cross and her light shining down a dark tunnel, and what those tattoos meant. At the end of their conversation she prayed for him, and asked that God would heal him and comfort him.
It’s hard to know what kind of impact that fleeting conversation had on him that day, if it drew him nearer to God or was just a momentary conversation with a stranger in an ER, insignificant and easily forgotten. But for a moment, put yourself in his shoes. If you were alone in an ER, waiting to be seen and in pain for hours, what would it be like for a stranger to start a conversation with you? Would it distract from the pain? Would it make you feel less lonely? Would you think of that person hours later? Years? What would you think of what that person claimed to represent? Would you see Jesus in them?
Even after eleven months of doing community outreach, it was still hard for Kristin to talk to a stranger
Even after eleven months of doing community outreach, it was still hard for Kristin to talk to a stranger. The courage to strike up that conversation didn’t come from her, God gave her the grace and courage in the moment to say a few simple words, and he took it from there. So next time you’re in a waiting room, an elevator, a park, or are confronted by a tugging on your heart, remember Kristin and Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” take a deep breath, and start a conversation.
Holly Ahrens is from Denver, Colorado and is an intern at Love Thy Neighborhood. She is a graduate of Grove City College with a degree in English language and literature.