It was beautiful, but somehow felt a bit overdone.
I gazed at the shimmering, Candy-Land-like scene of the children’s hospital in the medical district of our city, and felt my heart twist inside.
“I can’t stand the thought of all those little kids spending Christmas in a hospital,” I told my husband as I pulled my eyes away from the scene outside the passenger window.
It’s rare that I am able to go with Jeremy on his hospital visits, but today was an exception. With my parents in town for the holidays, we had the luxury of resident baby sitters. Today found both of us, along with our youngest son, inside the walls of two of the major hospitals in Fort Worth.
I wish it wasn’t so, but I’m not a natural-born sympathizer.
As a Type-A personality, I love to “fix” people or give them a game plan to “get over” a challenge… But, the honest truth, pain and suffering make me very uncomfortable.
It’s not so much that I don’t care.
But brokenness makes me feel inept, and I don’t particularly care for that feeling.
Maybe you wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that I’m not really fond of hospitals? Especially not at Christmas time.
The festive trees and shimmering lights just feel terribly gaudy and overdone in a place where brokenness of soul and body gathers people together in a strange unity of pain.
Jeremy’s silence as we pulled into the parking lot of Harris Memorial suggested that he was feeling every bit as tired as I was.
We walked through the hospital hallways for another hour, talking and praying with several members of our church family, before we headed back toward the parking garage.
As we rounded the corner of a waiting room and headed toward an elevator, a well-dressed woman caught my gaze across the room. To my surprise, she hurried toward us.
As Jeremy and I waited for our elevator door to open, the lady smiled, pressed something into our hands and greeted, “Just spreading a little Christmas cheer!”
We expressed our thanks just as the elevator doors opened and beckoned us in.
I glanced down at the objects in our hands- festive goodie bags, filled with cookies, candies, and Christmas treats. Attached to the side of the Christmas bags was a printed note:
We once sat in these waiting rooms awaiting the news from our son’s accident…
Our mission with this gift today is for you to know that God sends total strangers into your life to share comfort, peace, and love that only HE can give.”
I glanced up at Jeremy, who was reading the note on his bag, as well.
A thousand thoughts followed me out of that hospital.
I ate a few pieces of candy from my bag on our drive home, and I wondered about the lady who took the time to put who-knows-how-many Christmas goodies together to hand out to strangers in a hospital waiting room.
How long has she done this?
Whatever happened to her son? Did he survive the accident?
Does she do this just at Christmas time?
And how does she find the time to do it?
Pain has a way of pushing us beyond our limitations of time, resource, and reservation, and insists that we reach out for help and to help.
The beautiful fruit of very-ugly-pain is often compassion.
And just maybe, the fear of possible pain is what repels me from these places of suffering.
What if I am the one who ends up lying on these hospital beds?
What if MY loved one gets sick?
What if MY child is injured or ill?
So I’d rather stay away.
But the very experience of pain is what drew this well-dressed lady into the doors of the place of pain. So she could share the gift of love and hope with those who are suffering.
Isn’t this such a beautiful picture of what Christ does for us?
What He did for us at this beautiful season we call Christmas?
He willingly walked into a place of pain and brokenness, not because He had known pain, but to become pain. For us.
Because without His pain, we would never know hope in the midst of our pain.
Without His brokenness, we could never be whole.
Without His suffering, we could never experience healing.
Compassion is never convenient.
It is always messy.
It will always cost us something.
It will probably hurt.
But when our hearts bleed for the brokenness around us, yes, we lose a little more of our comfort and our innocence.
And we partake a little deeper of the immeasurable love of Christ.
The love that steps over fear, walks past discomfort, and insists on seeing beyond personal schedules and needs.
This is the compassion of Christmas.