Every time I go to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis I cry. I didn’t use to cry when I went there. To be honest, the first few times I visited people whose children had been admitted I didn’t cry. Since I was a young pastor without any children of my own at the time, I thought that I needed to show strength and I did it by caring without becoming too emotional. And everything worked fine until I had children of my own. Kids do something to your emotions. They tend to rub off the rough edges and unwittingly teach you the depths of love. New parents will do anything for their babies because they are so innocent and precious. My children have certainly helped expose my emotions in ways that often take me by surprise.
The reason I cry whenever I visit Children’s Hospital is because I have spent a significant amount of time there with my kids. When Josh was just over three years old he was diagnosed with leukemia, which flipped my world upside down. Sara was two and Kathi was pregnant with Katie. I cannot even remember how many times we drove back and forth to Children’s, how many scares we had and nights we spent under close supervision while he was receiving chemotherapy. The time I spent in the hospital opened my eyes to a whole new level of people experiencing pain and suffering. My eyes were opened because I was experiencing intense pain and suffering along with Josh and Kathi. Even though Sara was only two she knew something was not right and was able to recall many details of Josh’s battle with surprising clarity. Many family members and friends felt the sting of cancer along with us.
So this week when I visited Children’s to see our close friends and their daughter I cried as I drove through the parking garage looking for a spot. After parking, I wiped away the tears taking a few deep breaths. After checking in at the front desk I took the elevator to the sixth floor. The sixth floor doesn’t mean anything to most people, but to me, it was two floors down from where Josh spent so much time. The same emotional pain that I experienced when Josh was hospitalized flooded my soul and came pouring out my eyes as I walked down the long hallway towards my friend’s room. Before entering their room I had to collect myself again. As I entered their room to see their precious child my heart was overflowing with authentic love and compassion for one of God’s precious children and two loving parents who would do anything to help their child who was in such underserved pain.
In my personal opinion, kids shouldn’t get sick. I could tolerate a cold or tummy ache now and then but when a kid has to fight for their life every day, it just doesn’t seem fair. But life is very unfair when you think about it. Why some people are handed so much and others are handed so little will always be a mystery.
I am sure I will visit someone at Children’s Hospital again. And when I do, I expect to cry and relive our pain and suffering all over again, for just a few moments. That is what makes me human. It also reminds me that I can hurt with those who are hurting and being present means more than saying a thousand words over the phone. You can never replace a real hug with a Teddy Bear or flowers delivered from the hospital store.
Pain and suffering has taught me that it’s OK to be real when you are hurting. It’s also important to comfort others who need you. The greater the pain, the greater the support system you need. You need to share your feelings with one or two close friends. This is true for both men and women. And if you know someone who is hurting, call them or stop by. Chances are, they won’t tell you they need anything, but the fact that you called or stopped by shows them you do care. The author of Hebrews writes: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). It pleases God when you cry with those who are mourning and celebrate with those who are victorious. So don’t avoid someone who needs you, make time to care for them because it pleases God and will bring you joy knowing you did what you could.