I make an effort to visit my family in CT at least one weekend a month, in order to be nice to my wallet and my car. However, one weekend a month never seems to be enough. On my 3 hour ride after work on Fridays, I find myself making a mental note of my itinerary for the weekend. The list includes, running errands with my mom, visiting aunts and uncles, visiting my pastor, making every effort to go to church, trying to connect with friends and the list goes on.
But this past weekend, it was different. I was going home to see my uncle who had been in the hospital for the last week. After calling home every day this week to receive a progress report, I was finally going to see him.
In the hospital, his room seemed to have an invisible revolving door. As two people would leave, immediately two other people would enter. You see, my family is a big family and once people heard the news they all came to visit him. My uncles bed was located to the far right meaning we would have to pass his roommates bed before we reached his.
I am not a fan of going to hospitals, but then again, who is? I find that every time I go to the hospital, I am somewhat zoned out. I keep to myself, really don’t engage with others and remain quiet. I find myself constantly praying. I pray for the person I am visiting but I also pray for everyone who finds themselves in the hospital. In the midst of my prayers I saw my uncles roommate.
As much as I tell our students to take a chance and spark a conversation with someone you don’t know, I still have to push myself to do the same.
Throughout the day I realized that no one came to visit him. His phone remained there, unanswered because no one called. I tried to think of what he was feeling as he saw a train of people storming in his room. I stepped aside knowing that my uncle had more than enough people to talk to and began to talk to this man. His name was Ben. I was nervous, unsure of what to ask. So I started with the obvious question, why was he in the hospital. Our conversation soon extended to talking about family, interests, and life dreams. He was a very pleasant man to talk to and through our conversation we found that we both shared a strong faith in God. He was very happy to be able to share stories of how God had blessed him and manifested Himself in his life. I was grateful to see his faith in action. He inspired me.
As we exchanged our goodbyes he thanked me repeatedly for taking the time to talk to him. He shared that his wife was working two jobs and could not visit him, and that this was the first time someone had taken the time to have a conversation with him since he was in hospital. As we ended our conversation with a small prayer, I stepped out of the room. As I reflected on the amazing conversation we had I could not help but think about how many people we walk by each day and never stop to talk to. In the midst of our daily itineraries, we never make the time to smile at someone, say a simple hello, or engage in a conversation.
In our office we talk about the importance of creating personal connections. Of putting the person before the issue, and learning from each other through dialogue. I see how much I have learned from students, staff and faculty through personal conversations. I become a better listener from these conversations. I become aware of different experiences that impact us all as individuals. I become self aware of areas I need to learn more about. All because I take a chance and spark a conversation.
That day Ben thanked me, but I should have been the one thanking him. He may never know what impact he had on me and what he taught me that day. He taught me that it is important to stop and enjoy the simple things in life. He taught me the value in taking a chance.