That was 1997.
Hospitals are different now.
I know this because I spent four nights in one last week as doctors tried to determine the right combination of antibiotics to knock out a nasty leg infection I picked up.
As much as the creature comforts have changed (everybody gets a private room now – at least in the hospital I was in, free WiFi is readily available and nobody frowned upon my cell phone usage), I noticed one constant.
Caring people make a difference, no matter what era we’re talking about.
My mom and sister took me to the hospital when my fever was high from the infection, and then they stayed with me.
Numerous friends stopped by. One brought me a book about baseball. Another brought cookies. Yet another watched part of the Steelers-Packers game with me. I’m a Steelers fan; he’s a Packers fan. After he went home, we continued our conversation via text message.
As the third quarter started, a nurse came into my room. “Who are we rooting for?”
If you are a sports fan, you noticed what she did there. We tend to refer to our favorite teams in the first person, as if “we” were right there on the field with them.
“I’ve been a Steelers fan since I was a boy.”
“Go Steelers, then!” she said.
When she came back in later to check my vitals, she glanced at the TV to see the score. “How’re we doing?”
“It’s a tight one.”
She probably wasn’t waving a Terrible Towel in the hallways of the hospital between stops in her various patients’ rooms, but in a way, she waved one every time she stepped into my room that night because she knew the value of a supportive presence – much like the many other people who stopped by to visit.
As a result, I felt less alone.
A few years ago, I interviewed then NASCAR Sprint Cup chaplain, Tim Griffin about his ministry philosophy in a sport that provides very little time for spiritual contemplation.
His answer was perfect.
“If we can make ourselves available and people can find us in the garage and if we can get up between a couple of haulers or over a stack of tires or behind pit road and we can have a conversation, then that might be our discipleship moment.”
He and his organization, Motor Racing Outreach, believed in a ministry of presence.
They didn’t erect a building and then hope people showed up (even chapel services are held in the garage). Instead, Tim climbed between stacks of tires to grab short conversations with drivers right where they did business.
That makes me wonder what stacks of tires I need to climb. How about you?