April 29, 2016

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Theology 101: Life lessons learned in a waiting room

Debra Tomaselli“Have a seat,” the receptionist said. “They’ll call you shortly.”

I surveyed the waiting room, hoping to find someone to chat with. I sat near a stately woman with silver hair, but she was reading a magazine. Across from her was a man who resembled a bulldog. He was texting. In the corner sat a brown-haired woman, staring at a home improvement show blaring from a nearby television.

Nobody connected.

Moments later, another patient arrived. He had a spring in his step, and a smile on his face.

“Hello, Mr. Mike,” the receptionist said.

“Hi,” he responded. “Beautiful weather today, isn’t it?”

Mr. Mike signed in, and turned his gaze toward the waiting room. His face lit up when he spotted the bulldog man.

“It’s great to see you again,” Mr. Mike said. “How are you?”

The bulldog man broke into a smile as they shook hands.

“Pretty good,” the bulldog man said. “But I’d be a lot better if I didn’t have to be here.”

Inwardly, I grunted in agreement. Surely, we all did.

After all, this was a chemotherapy lab. We were cancer patients.

“Oh, come on,” Mr. Mike said, wrinkling his nose and glancing around the room. “We’re all in this together. You don’t like coming here?”

He addressed bulldog man, but the question fit each one of us.

“I love this place,” Mr. Mike continued. “These people are great. They do wonderful things here.”

Initially, I agreed with bulldog man. I didn’t want to be here today. I was annoyed that I had to endure cancer treatments. Recovery was much too slow. The chemo was successful, the war had been won, but I was still struggling.

Mr. Mike’s words humbled me, breaking through my grumpy attitude. I cringed to realize how ungrateful I was for all that had been done for me. My life had been saved. Had I lost sight of the goal?

Mr. Mike looked my way, then back at bulldog man.

“Dr. Reynolds is my oncologist,” he said, lowering his voice. “How do you thank the man who,” Mr. Mike’s voice choked with emotion, “who saved your life?”

Just then, the nurse emerged. “Debra,” she called.

I exited the waiting room with a nod at Mr. Mike. I may never see him again, but I’ll always remember his poignant words: How do you thank the man who saved your life?

Cancer or not, it’s a valid question for all of us.

We are all in this life together, struggling through the trials of this earthly existence, headed for a heavenly destination. Thanks to the salvific work of one man, our eternal lives have been saved.

Are we grumpy or grateful? Do we realize all that’s been done for us? Can we see the goal? Can we grasp the gift?

If so, I think we’ll have the attitude of Mr. Mike. We won’t be sulking in this waiting room called life, hiding behind magazines and television screens.

Instead, we’ll radiate joy. We’ll be thankful. We’ll encourage each other.

We’ll find a million ways to thank the Man who saved our lives.

And we’ll never forget.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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