I sat quietly in the waiting room of a local hospital. Any moment now, my daughter would be admitted for her day surgery.
An elderly nurse with short curly brown hair appeared at the door and called out my daughter’s name. We both got up from our uncomfortable chairs and approached the nurse, who then asked us to follow her.
As we walked down the long hospital corridor, we passed by the seating area for the oncology admitting room.
It was there that I recognized a coworker sitting among the patients.
I knew that she had been ill, and had been off work. This was the first time that I had seen her since she had received the cancer diagnosis. Quickly, I walked up to my coworker and we exchanged greetings. Not quite knowing what to say, I told her that I hoped she would be feeling much better soon.
Then, I returned to my daughter and the nurse who were patiently waiting for me, right where I had left them.
I apologized for the momentary delay and explained to the nurse, that it would have been difficult to walk by and not say hello.
The nurse then told me that my short diversion had done no harm.
“You know,” she said to me as we continued to make our way through the corridor…
“I walk down this way a lot. Every time I walked by here, I would look up and always see someone I knew sitting in that waiting area, like someone from church, a neighbour, an old friend from school.”
A shadow then came across the nurse’s face.
“It was always so sad to see them there.”
Then, she lowered her eyes to the ground.
“Now, whenever I walk by here…
…I never look up any more. That way I never know who’s there.”
We continued to walk in silence until we reached what would be my daughter’s room for the day.
After instructing my daughter to change into a hospital gown, the nurse left us.
I found myself still contemplating what the nurse had said earlier. Her words had hit me hard. In fact I felt blindsided by the nurse’s ignorance and cold logic.
After I spent some time thinking about that conversation, I conceded to myself it’s a good thing that I never became a doctor or a nurse.
Because as hard as I might have tried, I never would have been able to stop myself from keeping my head up as I surveyed the oncology waiting room as I walked by.
For all I knew, it could have been someone important who maybe needed some comforting…
Like someone from church, a neighbour, or an old friend from school.