13 Hours

Contributing Writer
Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY

As I left the Hodge Avenue parking ramp adjacent to Children’s Hospital, I was struck by the joy in front of me. I pulled onto Elmwood Avenue. on a beautiful May day and was simply taken aback at the busy and jubilant world around me (80 degree days in May will do that to Buffalonians). The patios were overflowing with cheerful patrons. The sidewalks were bustling with hipsters. The roads were busy and rushed. The world was awake and alive. I was completely stunned.

See, I had spent the day in Children’s hospital with my daughter Delaney who had a routine operation. Because of her prior health issues, the doctors decided to keep her overnight. Around 8 p.m. my wife, Kate, returned to the hospital to shift duties with me: she’d stay the night with Delaney and I’d go home to manage the other two through the night and the morning.

When I left, I had spent 13 hours in the hospital…

13 hours talking to people in scrubs.

13 hours in artificial light.

13 hours pretending to be “okay.”

13 hours worried about my 3-year-old.

13 hours watching monitors, counting breaths, and asking questions.

13 hours completely unconcerned about anything other than my kids.

And so, when I pulled out of the dark and damp parking ramp into the bright and beautiful world around me, I was simply struck. On the one hand, I was so refreshed by the life around me. I loved it. In truth, I was envious of it. On the other hand, for the first time all day, it held a mirror up to my situation as it showed me how empty and broken I was.

While I watched people smile, I cried. While I watched folks meet up with friends, I rushed home. While I waited at intersections for mothers pushing their kids in strollers, I was reminded of where my daughter still was. While I witnessed the world around me, I watched as they were completely oblivious to my presence in their midst. But I was not disheartened. On the contrary, I was encouraged.

I was encouraged as I discovered joy and sorrow, hope and despair, fellowship and loneliness, peace and peril, and even life and death coexisting in such close proximity. So often we assume that there is a great distance and divide between these things, but there isn’t. The beauty of creation, the beauty of the human heart, and the beauty of Christian community is that we can hold all of these things together.

Now the world would tell us that this cannot be. We’re told that we are either happy or sad, good or bad, hopeful or blue. However, my experience pulling out of that parking ramp informs me that this is not the case. Rather, it is possible even in times of personal pain to celebrate the accomplishments of others. We can celebrate new life while we grieve our neighbor’s loss. We can rejoice and give thanks for abundant blessings, even while we journey with our brother and sister through times of desperation and devastation.

To not allow ourselves this opportunity – the opportunity to let joy and sorrow, hope and despair, peace and peril coexist – is to squander the gift of the human heart and to rob ourselves of an intricate part of the human experience.

May you find hope invading your despair. May you see your neighbor’s pain even while celebrating new life. May you rejoice in life and comfort one another in death. And in the midst of all of it – whether you’re leaving a hospital or partying on a patio – may you find the presence of God right there in the midst of it.

May you who are broken and empty find yourselves filled by others. And may you who are full be the blessing you are able to be for others. And thank you, friends, for refreshing this broken father after those 13 hours.

In the Way,
PSDH

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.