The Great Equalizer

There are a few places in this world where the ground is level, where all of us are equal. Where there is no rich or poor, old or young, educated or not. No races or ethnicities. One of those places is at the foot of the cross. Another is the emergency room. At some time in our lives, we will probably all enter that room.

Last night we spent almost four hours in our local emergency room. We took my father, who’s had surgery recently after a mini-stroke. (He’s fine now and resting at home.) While waiting, I was amazed at the diversity of the drama I saw, realizing it’s a daily and nightly occurrence in the ER. Some people arrived dressed in their Sunday best, some in sweats or pajamas. Some were angry, some fearful, some humbled.

One patient entered with her sister, husband, father, and two toddlers. The children were kept up well past midnight, drinking coke and eating candy bars. I think I heard the father say "No, Alex" at least once every five minutes, without ever backing up his words. (This was a familiar refrain for me since my oldest nephew is named Alex.) One woman came in and was immediately given a mask to wear. I’m not sure what contagious disease she had, but I made sure I washed my hands thoroughly that night. A teenage boy appeared with his bloody hand in a towel. A very pregnant woman was wheeled straight in while her husband quickly filled out the paperwork. One woman stormed in pulling another woman, with a police officer following.  He then escorted the younger one, her head down in shame, while the dominant one ranted to all of us that she was fed up with her sister’s drug problem.

I noticed one couple and child laughing as they sauntered up from the parking lot. As soon as they walked through the door, the wife started screeching and sobbing. They were taken straight back. After they left, a mother ran in holding her toddler in her arms. He was having seizures and she appeared frantic. I was thankful the family who seemed to be faking it didn’t get in her way. We even saw a couple there who we’d met earlier that day in a Sunday school class. We spoke briefly and promised to pray for them.

It was a long evening in the waiting room, but so much easier on my side of the admitting door than on the inside. Someday I’ll probably be on the other side. It happens to all of us.

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