The Woman With One Of The Most Important Jobs In The World

Her ancestors were slaves.

The word ancestors doesn’t seem appropriate. It wasn’t all that long ago. Her parents spent time being educated in segregated schools and drinking from segregated water fountains. Her father was called cruel, racist names by respectable pillars of the community. Once, her mother was assaulted for daring not to move off of the sidewalk when four young white boys came walking by. Her mother still has a small scar under her right eye to remind her of that day.

But those were different days. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no more. We all drink our water from the same fountain and share the same sidewalk. After all, it is 2017.

But not for her.

No, when she goes to work, it’s 1955 all over again.

She always did well in school. Helping others was what drove her. She knew what it was like to face one roadblock after another. She saw how bitter it made some of the people who she loved. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted to serve the weak, not keep them down. As she saw it, there was no better career path for her to take than nursing.

She dreamed of working in a busy emergency room in one of the big city hospitals. That didn’t work out. But she never gave up on nursing. She got as much education as she could. It just wasn’t enough to get her out of her small town. Eventually, she came to accept that small towns need nurses too. Sure, there’s no big hospital or busy emergency room where she lives.

But there is a nursing home.

So that’s where she went to work.

For the better part of four decades, that’s where she’s been picking patients up off of the floor, distributing medicine, cleaning out bedpans and helping folks go to the bathroom. She does it with a happy heart, even when smiling doesn’t come easy. She’s not much for talking but when she does speak, it’s never negative. The same can’t be said for her patients.

Every time she walks into room 4A, she gets greeted with a racial slur. She always responds with a smile and some comment about how this is the day that the Lord has made. She sees the irony in helping a man go to the bathroom who in his younger days wouldn’t use the same water fountain as her parents.

The lady in 1C frequently tells her in a creepy, whispery voice, “If you steal from me again I’ll have you killed and no one will care.” Of course, she never has stolen from the lady in 1C. But she has picked her up off of the floor five times in the last two months and gave the lady’s son a strong talk about coming to visit his mother more often.

3B is the hardest. She used to have nightmares about 3B. The guy in that room knew her parents. He’s the one responsible for that scar under her mother’s right eye.

She thought of recusing herself from that room, sort of like judges do when there’s some sort of conflict of interest. But then she thought better of it. She decided that instead of running away from the man responsible for her mother’s facial scar and countless other emotional scars, she would run toward him in his weakness. She remembered the passion that drove her into nursing. Instead of keeping the weak down, she would try to help them. This wasn’t what she had in mind. It is what God had in mind.

The man doesn’t know who she is. She thought about telling him once. It wouldn’t matter. He’s a shell of his former self. His memory, his strength and his family are all gone.

 

She doesn’t think that her job is all that important to the kingdom of God. If you asked her, she’d tell you that the ones with the really important jobs are the pastors and missionaries and famous Christian authors. She’s wrong. As far as the kingdom of God goes, this woman has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Every day before she walks into room 3B, she prays for strength. She asks her Lord to give her the strength to be like family to the lonely man who did so much harm to hers. She asks for God to give her the power to resist the temptation to turn a blind eye to the man’s suffering and let him get what’s coming to him. Day after day, God answers her prayers. And day after day, the light of Christ shines when a nurse walks into room 3B. By the time she walks out, she has loved her neighbor, loved her enemy and ministered to the least of these.

Just like Jesus did.

And he is pleased.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)

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The Least Segregated Place In America

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It’s been said that the Sunday morning service is the most racially segregated hour of the week. Last Sunday, I went to the least segregated hour.

I parked my car in one of the last spaces available and took a deep breath. I had been inside this building before but that still didn’t make it any easier. I always feel like I need to prepare myself before I go into this place.

Inside, I walked quietly through the hallway with my head down. I finally noticed the man that I came to see. He’s white and he was in the middle of a conversation with a black lady. When he saw me, he stopped talking and introduced me to the lady.

He told me that they were helping each other.

They couldn’t have been more different. Their genders, their race and their background where opposites. But that didn’t matter. One thing brought them together.

Death.

I was in a hospice. My friend’s father had just passed away. He was holding it together as good as you might expect. The lady I had just met was helping him. And he was helping her as she coped with the loss of her loved one. Although they were strangers, they were there for each other.

My friend walked me down the hallway to see his dad. Other family members were in there. They were grieving too. But not as those who have no hope. They knew that the man who had been sick for so many years was with Jesus now. Stories of the man’s life and legacy came out with ease.

The family told stories of fatherly discipline.

There were stories of hunting trips, school and playing in the band.

And there was one last story.

Just before death came to that room, one of the hospice nurses came in. She sang a hymn. She was black. The man she was singing over was white. The Savior who was about to receive the man created and loved them both.

We can go to churches and even school based on our racial preferences. Death doesn’t work that way. It comes to us all. And in a weird way, it brings us together.

In that hospice, there was no talk of confederate flags or white privilege or Louis Farrakhan or #blacklivesmatter. None of that mattered. There was only pain. Shared pain. And a hope that was shared too.

A while back I asked a man who has been alive for a few decades longer than me what he thought about the racial tension in our country today. How does it compare to the 1950s and 1960s?

“It doesn’t,” he told me. “It’s much worse today.”

A lot has been done in the name of stopping it. New words have been added to our culture’s non-written Do Not Use List. People are getting angry. The government is spending money. But none of it is helping.

Last Sunday, sitting in that hospice and surrounded by death, it hit me. Maybe we could all get along better if we started living like we do when we’re in the hospice. Maybe if we remembered that in life, just like in the hospice, no one gets out alive, we would stop letting our differences separate us.

For all of our differences, whites and blacks have one thing in common.

Death.

There is no amount of privilege, pride or resistance that will help us to escape it. For all of the pain that it brings us, death brings us something better. It brings us together. That’s how Jesus works. He is the Master of redeeming even the most painful of situations.

When I finally walked out of that hospice building last Sunday, I prayed a prayer. It’s the same prayer that I always pray when I leave those places.

“Lord, send Jesus back quickly.”

There’s nothing quite like a trip to the hospice to remind you of what we will not have once Jesus returns.

But there was more to this particular trip. This time, I got to see just a glimpse of what we will have after Jesus comes back.

The One who will one day forever remove death’s sting is the same one who will One day forever remove society’s segregation. In eternity, the worship services will not be segregated. All followers of Christ will offer up our praise to Jesus. Together.

And they sang a new song, saying,“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10 (ESV)

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