Have you ever had an experience which causes you to reflect on life? I had one this week. I was delivering fliers about our Parkinson’s group to a local medical office. Someone had suggested that I also drop some off at ‘His Hands’, a local free medical clinic. I had never been there, so I looked up the website on my phone and hit GPS directions.
The clinic was only a block or so away from where I was. I pulled in front of the small building and walked in. The office had a slight odd odor of dirty clothes. There was one patient sitting in the small waiting room. I looked at the older man in his well worn clothes and immediately thought he might be homeless. I smiled at him and he smiled back with an almost toothless grin. Something tugged at my heart.
The receptionist was talking on the phone, but she smiled to acknowledge me. As I stood waiting, I heard her side of the conversation. I heard her verify with the person on the other end that they had health insurance but had a very high deductible. Yes, the clinic could help. I looked around at the small, simple, but clean office. Something tugged at my heart again.
A pleasant woman came through a door behind the front desk and asked if I needed help. I explained who I was and about the free programs for people with PD in the area as I handed her the fliers. She thanked me, said she would put some out in the waiting room and give some to the doctors to hand out. I thanked her and walked out to my car.
As I got back in the car, I looked again at the small building. It was a simple white building, nothing like the previous medical facility that I just came from with its large glass windows, spacious offices, and beautiful art on the walls. I felt that same tug at my heart. This time tears came to my eyes. As I drove away, it hit me. “If not for the grace of God”.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs are or aren’t, we are one tragedy or bad decision away from needing services such as those provided by His Hands. I could be the homeless person in the waiting room if I had become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or had a mental illness that controlled my decisions. I could be there after being diagnosed with a disease or a became the victim of an accident that left me with medical bills that bankrupted me. I could be there if my child had been born with a condition that required expensive medical treatments.
We don’t like to think about the “what ifs”, but perhaps sometimes we should. It might give us a little more compassion towards those who are struggling. Maybe we wouldn’t see the man or woman on the street corner as a “bum”, but as someone who fell on hard times due to a drug or alcohol problem, or a mental illness. Maybe we wouldn’t stereotype the single mom who relies on Medicaid and Food Stamps to care for her family. Maybe we could empathize with the immigrant family who are just trying to find a better life for their children than what they fled. Maybe we could imagine what it would be like to be a veteran coming home to a different world that he or she is having trouble adjusting to.
Maybe, just maybe, we could all feel that tug in our hearts. That tug is called compassion. We all need to feel it.