Hospitals are never fun places to be, but they often provide the setting for unexpected gestures of kindness.
I just visited my stepmother in the cancer ward of a hospital in a nearby city. She was having a rough day, so we let her rest and waited nervously and silently in the lounge. A white haired older gentleman came in, smiling broadly, and asked, “Is this the room for telling stories.” We didn’t really know what to say but his smile was infectious and we all relaxed a little.
“My wife doesn’t like me telling stories,” he laughed. “They’re usually about doctors.”
“Those are the best kind,” I told him by way of encouragement (by that point I had clued in that his wife was probably a patient on the ward.)
He proceeded to tell us — and here it is, for your enjoyment:
It’s the story of a small town doctor who wanted to take a weekend off but didn’t have anyone to fill in for him. He asked everyone in town but the only person who was willing was the town hobo, Joe.
“Just tell everyone who comes by that I’ll be back on Monday,” said the Doc.
When the doctor came back on Monday, he asked Joe, “So how’d it go?”
“Great,” said Joe. “A man came in with a sore throat so I told him to take two aspirins and go lie down.”
“That’s good,” said the Doc. “Anyone else?”
“Another man came by holding his stomach and complaining about eating something that didn’t agree with him, so I told him to take some Gravol.”
“Well done,” said the Doc.
“Then a woman came in,” continued Joe. “She took off all her clothes, lay down on the examining table and said ‘Doctor, I haven’t seen a man for years.’”
“What did you do?”asked the Doc nervously.
“Gave her eyedrops.”
We all laughed heartily and after he left we joked that we’d been worried a little bit about where the story had been heading.
It struck me that rather than sit feeling sorry for himself or withdrawing into a newspaper or TV news (as I’d be inclined to do), this kind man took a moment to reach out to another family. And, as a result, we all felt just a little less alone.
His good deed will stick with me for quite a while.