I’d like to share a remarkable story with you. It reinforces my desire to continue acknowledging all the ways I have become better, grown wiser and been serendipitously shaped by the people who have generously left their heart-prints on my soul. I hope I can do the story justice!
One day, a middle-aged woman entered the crowded waiting room at the dermatologist office. She heaved a discontented sigh because it was clearly going to be a long wait. She was aware, however, that she could pass the time begrudgingly or she could simply make the best of it. She consciously resolved to use the ‘waiting’ as an exercise in building more patience (not always her strong suit!). She determined herself to be a ‘patient’ patient. She had barely settled into her reading when one of the doctor’s receptionists plopped unexpectedly into the seat right next to her … gently apologizing for bothering her, but at the same time curiously searching the patient’s face and saying:
“I have a weird question for you. Did you, by chance, have a baby in February of 1986?”
“Yes” responded the puzzled patient with palpable rumblings in her heart around where this odd inquiry was headed.
“Oh good!” exclaimed the visibly relieved receptionist. “I hoped it would be you. When I saw your name come through the system, I was hoping I would get a chance to thank you.” With her eyes welling up a wee bit, she continued: “We shared a room in the hospital when our babies were born. My daughter was born with so many problems, it was such a rough time … and … you were just so kind to me.”
The patient felt herself feeling totally unworthy of the appreciation and a bit sheepish to accept the generous acknowledgment because she had absolutely no recollection of those moments at all. She suspected she could not have been this woman’s roommate, but didn’t want to discount or dismiss the significance of her heartfelt recollection by admitting her total lack of recall.
“Oh my gosh … that was 28 and a half years ago” uttered the patient incredulously. “How on earth did you remember my name after all this time?”
With a wistful glance downward, the receptionist warmly acknowledged “I remember it like it was 5 years ago. I have never forgotten you. You even brought me carrots … to my house. You have no idea how much your kindness and caring meant to me.”
The patient was deeply humbled, because it really was true that she had ‘no idea’ … except for the carrots. That comment triggered some unwelcome memories stored in the deepest recesses of the patient’s mind of an exceptionally stressful year when they had been farming carrots. With that, the patient’s eyes softened … maybe, just maybe she could have been the one who shared that hospital room with the lovely receptionist after all.
It was the strangest thing though, because in that magical moment of awareness, the patient felt as if she were the one who was being transformed by the exchange. She could not believe how good it felt to know that she had somehow, however unwittingly, eased a very difficult time for a complete stranger. She thanked the receptionist for not bypassing the opportunity to re-connect and gift her with that kind recollection.
The two women took some time to catch up on what their little baby girls were doing now that they were grown women. The receptionist shared that it had continued to be a bumpy ride for her daughter in many ways, but things were OK. The patient shared that her daughter had just delivered her first child … and … that her cherished 8 week old grandson might be facing a surgery. The receptionist was all too familiar with such unwelcome things … she offered some empathic words of compassion for the patient.
As they parted, the receptionist re-iterated the gratitude she felt in finally being given a chance to express her appreciation. She indicated that she had always wanted to say “thank you” to the patient.
Just as the patient was letting all the richness of the special moment land deeply into her heart space … another patient unexpectedly plopped into the chair beside her. It was a young lady who had caught the patient’s eye when she had entered the waiting room. This wholesome 30ish(?) young woman was unpretentious, outdoorsy looking, and exuded a really earthy energy. She was wearing a Bohemian style dress and she had a cap fashionably pulled down over her long blonde hair … beautifully highlighting her bright, blue make-up free eyes.
Her name was Ayla. She began by saying “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing you say that your grandson may need surgery. I just wanted to tell you that my little girl had the same problem when she was a baby. I can only imagine how scared your daughter must be. I was a complete mess, but I didn’t need to be. It went really well and I only had to give her a few Advil for the first day. She was just fine after that. Maybe you could tell your daughter so she is not so worried about it.”
The patient was deeply touched by this genuine, sincere and compassionate offering. She could feel the gracious warmth and heartfelt empathy that drove the young mother’s intention … she was benevolently intent on easing the fears of a complete stranger.
The patient contained her own tears of gratitude until Ayla was called in for her appointment. She was overcome with emotion … an intense sense of appreciation for the blessings she had received that day in the crowded waiting room. She could never have guessed the gifts that were about to be offered to her in her efforts to be the ‘patient’ patient ….
I share this story with you because it proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are absolutely no insignificant moments in any of our lives. We can never begin to know, and may not even remember, the things we might have said or done that will spark something special and land indelibly in another person’s soul.
And, I can tell you that 28 years from now Ayla might not remember the other patient’s name or how much her kind words meant to that worried grandma … but I certainly will. You see, that other patient was me.
And, it is my honor to use this public forum to recognize, acknowledge and celebrate these two phenomenal women …‘ Ayla’(from Fernie) and ‘Karen’ (the receptionist from the dermatologists office). It is my hope that one day, you will come across this little blog … and then … I will get the opportunity, from the deepest place in my heart, to say “thank you”. I will never, ever, not in my lifetime forget the time we shared in that crowded waiting room.
I am so much better because you cared enough to say something … Karen
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