More than twenty years ago, I was working the night shift as a registered nurse. It had been a hard night and I was exhausted. It seemed as if I had just fallen into a deep sleep, when the doorbell rang. I stumbled out of bed to the door, I was tired and resented being disturbed. I opened the door to a thin young black child about 12 years old. He had been dropped off with a group of other young people to sell magazines. I snapped, “I am not interested!”
He asked ” Could I please have a drink of water?”
I sharply replied “I don’t have time.”
I slammed the door and went back to bed. When I awakened, I couldn’t believe my behavior to that child. I have never been so ashamed of myself. I remember my parents referring to how “we are tested throughout life.” I had been given a test and failed miserably. For years I have had a heavy heart and a scar on my soul for the way I treated that little boy. Praying for forgiveness did not ease my burden.
In 1998, more than 20 years after I failed one of life’s tests, I was living in Florida, working in a position as Director of Nursing of the Emergency Department. However, for the second time in my career, it was becoming apparent that I was being “downsized” out of my job and was expecting to be laid off. Being in my 50′s, I was angry and grief stricken over the loss of my job. I decided I would do direct patient care during my last days on the job.
One afternoon the medical alert radio sounded and we were informed they were bringing in a man found lying unconscious on the street. I told everyone, “I’ll take this one.”
Shortly, the ambulance arrived. The young man on the stretcher was the filthiest human being I had ever seen. His long brown hair and beard were matted and tangled. His clothes were wet from a recent downpour and appeared to have been worn for months. The paramedics reported he was epileptic and had a seizure, causing him to fall and strike his head. As he came around he said his name was Rick.
This wild looking young man had the most incredible blue eyes I have ever seen. In a calm and soothing voice Rick stated he did not have the money to buy his seizure medication.
The physician checked him and treatment was started. I asked if he was hungry and he replied he had not eaten in four days. A double portion lunch was ordered. I watched as he ate slowly, chewing his food, savoring every flavor and bite. He displayed impeccable manners, the way he handled his silverware and wiped his mouth with the rough paper napkin. Rick ate every morsel of the food, quietly thanking me.
It was time to clean him up. I began peeling the hideous smelly clothes off to give Rick a bath. The staff begged me not to take Rick’s shoes off.
It’s an unwritten rule in the emergency room — if you don’t really need to remove someone’s shoes– DON’T! As I pulled his shoes and socks off I gasped. The thick mud on his feet looked as if he had brown casts on both feet. I thought “Oh this is going to be a terrible mess.”
As I soaked the layers of dirt from Rick’s feet and started washing them, I was nearly knocked over by an overwhelming thought which surprised me. In my mind I heard a voice say, “there is story about the Lord washing a poor person’s feet.” I thought to myself “how weird, wonder what made me think of that?”
Later, Rick was clean, in fresh clothing and shoes, medications given to take with him and ready for discharge… but, to where?
Rick told me his mother lived 60 miles away. I decided the hospital could pay for his cab fare. (The hospital was probably going to lay me off, so I figured if they didn’t like it, that was too bad. My hostility was rearing its ugly head again!)
I made arrangements for a taxi to take Rick home to his mother. Finally, the clerk announced Rick’s ride was waiting so I gathered Rick’s belongings, linked arms with him and we walked to the waiting room.
I almost fainted when I saw a man in a tuxedo standing there and parked outside was a limousine! I had called a cab! I asked the driver if he was at the right place and he replied, “Oh, yes, ma’am, you must have somebody really special here.”
I replied, “Yes, I think he is pretty special.”
Rick turned, softly smiled a beautiful smile with his perfect white teeth and those magnificent blue eyes and in a whisper, he said, “Bless you. I shall never forget what you have done today.”
As he drove off in the huge limousine, I was both stunned and confused. I went back to my colleagues and explained how Rick had driven away in luxury. They were staring at me as if I had been struck by lightening. Was the limo sent by mistake, or was it by design. And who was Rick?
I guess I will never know.
Meantime, my consulting job turned into a full time position as an Emergency Room Director in Maine. It is the most wonderful job I have ever had and I work with people I truly adore. Maine is beautiful and I feel a peace and a joy here like never before.
Looking back, I firmly believe Rick was an important part of my destiny.
Maybe Rick was sent to me to allow me the opportunity to start fresh and renew my journey. Since none of us know when our tests will be given, I am grateful to have had a second chance.
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