While visiting my mother at the hospital recently, I was very troubled by something I witnessed. As I walked Lee Ann and Victoria out to their car, I noticed a woman in a wheelchair. She was dressed in her pajamas and was accompanied by a hospital employee. The woman had no bag of belongings, just the pajamas on her back. They were both perusing the cars as they pulled up to the hospital. I heard the employee ask the woman as a vehicle approached, “Is that your ride?” The woman stretched her neck looking to see if that was the person to deliver her from the hospital. It was not. I silently prayed for her.

I walked Lee Ann and Victoria to their car and returned to the hospital, and the woman and hospital employee were still waiting and watching. I silently offered another prayer for this woman.

After visiting with my mother for about another hour, I walked out of the hospital and was surprised to see the woman in her pajamas still sitting there in the wheelchair. Another hospital employee had joined them along with a security guard. The three looked frustrated, and the woman just sat there. I overheard a bit of the conversation between the security guard and the transport team, “She checked herself out, and I don’t think anyone is coming for her,” she said. The other employee asked, “Now what do we do?” I slowed my pace and watched as they turned her wheelchair around and disappeared back into the hospital. I offered yet another prayer.

I wonder if it was my imagination, or was the woman in the wheelchair wearing her pajamas as lost and alone as I perceived her to look? I can’t help but wonder what has become of her. I can’t help but wonder what her story is. I can’t help but wonder what her future will be. I can’t help but wonder if she needs a kind and compassionate listening ear. I think I will offer another prayer for her.

So many around us need nothing more than a little of our time, our compassion and kindness, and a listening ear.

I recently read a story about the late Erma Bombeck. Erma Bombeck, before her death, shared this incident in one of her columns. She tells about a really bad day she had once, a day when she was in a bad mood and didn’t want to see anybody. She really would have liked to run away. Yet, it seemed that everyone needed to talk with her. Even on her way to the airport, a taxi driver talked the entire way about his son who was away at college. Finally, she was about to board her plane. She thought, at last, a few beautiful moments with my own thoughts. It was then that the voice next to her, belonging to an elderly woman said: “I’ll bet it is cold in Chicago.”

Stone-faced, Erma Bombeck replied, “It’s likely.”

The woman persisted: “I have not been in Chicago for nearly three years. My son lives there, you know.”

“That’s nice,” Erma said, her eyes intent on her book.

Again the elderly woman spoke: “My husband’s body is on this plane. We have been married for 53 years. I do not drive, you know, and when he died, a nun drove me home from the hospital… the funeral director let me come to the airport with him.”

Erma Bombeck said, “I do not think I have ever detested myself more than I did at that moment. Another human being was screaming to be heard, and, in desperation, had turned to a cold stranger who was more interested in a novel than she was in the real-life drama at her elbow. She needed no advice, money, assistance or expertise. All she needed was someone to listen. She talked numbly and steadily until we boarded the plane, and she took her seat. As I put my things in the overhead compartment, I heard the woman’s plaintive voice say to her seat companion, “I’ll bet it’s cold in Chicago,” and I prayed, “Please God, let her listen.”

What a stark reminder that just a little of our time, some kindness and compassion, and a listening ear can make all the difference in the world to a person who is hurting.

We are also reminded that we have a Savior who is evermore ready to listen than we are, to come and share with the One who loves us unconditionally and cares for us in all seasons of our lives.

The hymn “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” gives us a glimpse into the One who is always ready to listen with a loving and compassionate ear. The words to this beloved classic were written by Joseph Medlicott Scriven. Growing up in Ireland, Scriven hoped to follow in the footsteps of his father’s prestigious military career, but his poor health prevented it..

After graduating from Trinity college in 1842, Scriven fell in love and prepared to get married. The night before his wedding, his wife-to-be accidentally drowned. As if that’s not heartbreaking enough, years later, he was engaged to another woman who contracted pneumonia and died.

In light of these experiences, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” becomes even more poignant. When someone with Scrivener’s experiences tells you that our peace is forfeited when we neglect to carry our burdens to God in prayer, we should listen.

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Pastor Russel

Photo by Barbara Krawcowicz