The Troubles of Strangers

“Are you waiting to get a transplant?” He asks earnestly.

The question is direct. It twitches a smile across my lips.

I am sitting amongst 4 men of different ages, jovial men, in the waiting room blood work lab. These men’s smart phones are stowed away and they are sharing stories. One talks casually about how he was on the very bottom of the Liver Transplant list and got bumped up to number 1 when he was given 24 hours to live. He lost his spot when a 9 year old boy took it because he had priority over him, but not to worry, he lived a week and now has a spanking brand new liver!

Congratulations are said, the stories proceed. These men are present, alive, happy to be given the opportunity at life, like a fish thrown back in water, yet  they converse and breathe sans gulps.

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I know the ways of waiting rooms. Rooms in which pregnant women cradle smart phones and bellies, rooms in which toddlers cry for their mama’s phone, and rooms in which people generally avoid eye contact. Rooms in which actual conversations don’t take place, life is too busy for that.

But this waiting room is different- this room is the hospital waiting room; and in this room the patients are surprisingly happy to be alive, they are present. Some have brand new livers and some are awaiting them, yet they are positive and at peace.


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Back to his direct question, “So are you getting a transplant?”

He is waiting for a liver. He is 28 and has had problems for over a decade. His first liver was a bad liver. His second liver clotted. And then the third one clotted. So he is patiently awaiting for his fourth liver, yet he is full of hope.

The morning has been a rush for me. I was feeling dreary and tired and heavy. But, my attitude has shifted gently by sitting in this waiting room. I answer his question, lightened by the troubles of strangers, that no I don’t need a liver. I’m just waiting for some blood work.

But his story lingers with me, and gives me perspective. It makes me grateful for having a liver, a liver that doesn’t clot, a liver that works.

So many times we think we are the ones with challenging situations, only to meet another who is in a harder situation, but has a better attitude. Sometimes we just need to sit and listen and be present and listen to the troubles of strangers, troubles that give us perspective. Troubles that give us the extra fuel to include those strangers in your prayers and hope that all the challenges smooth over once more.

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