Today I was on the Jerry Springer show. I didn’t even know I was scheduled. I accidentally walked on stage and a chair flew by.
Apparently, it was being taped at the hospital where my stepdad had surgery to repair a broken hip this morning. He had a mini-stroke several weeks back (TIA), then developed pneumonia and other complications. That landed him in the convalescent hospital but my mom was able to bring him home about ten days ago. However, he’s old and stubborn – like I'll probably be – and he didn’t use his walker a few days ago and fell. Broke his hip. And who did my mom call first? Not 911. If any of you have parents this age you may know what I’m talking about. They tend to call us first.
“What should I do? He says he can’t get up. Can you come out here?” (They live in the country.)
“Yes, mom, I can but if he can’t get up you’ll need to call 911. Something’s wrong.”
“But which hospital should I take him to? We can’t decide and you know we’re gonna sit there all night long.”
“Mom? Mom. Call 911. I’ll be right there.”
And so it goes. They are casual about the emergency room. They practically live there. And yes, it was broken and the surgery took place this morning. He now has a plate and will be in recovery until tonight because there are no rooms at the inn. Recovery means no visitors. I sent my mom home for a nap. And then I escaped the nut house myself.
Hospitals bring out the best or the worst in people. I experienced the latter today. My mother was surrounded by dubious comforters, from a caustic pastor (forgive me, Lord, but I’m used to the kind and gentle heart of MY pastor and can forget how blessed I am), to one of the guests on the Jerry Springer show who was actually a friend of my mother's. This woman engaged the rest of the nut house strangers in the waiting room who, only moments before, had treated us to a raging, screaming blow out over who ought to see the patient in question and who shouldn’t and who was a liar and who was a drug user and all the while young children were caught in the crossfire. From the nonchalant expressions on their faces this wasn’t anything new.
And that was the highlight.
It went downhill from there. The ring leader we had never seen before marched over to us to explain her case and cause. I said nothing because she made no sense. Mom’s friend saw it as a great opportunity to continue the interaction. The argument was on and people stormed in and out as they shared their drama with the rest of the hospital victims.
Meanwhile, back on the front, to stop my mother’s friend from interacting, I asked questions of her. If you can get people talking about themselves – and that isn’t hard to do – it can keep them, and you, out of trouble. So I asked away. And she talked away. Loudly. And then one of my stepdad’s relatives came in. And I asked more questions. And she talked away. And I kept asking because while people are focused on themselves, they never see you, and that can be a good thing. I smiled, nodded, asked a few questions, and verbally applauded. It's like wearing Kevlar body armor - it can keep you from taking a bullet.
I interacted with no less than ten people and never answered a question, because no one ever really saw me. No one inquired about my children, my life, my husband. Everyone there wanted an audience. It was a room full of people all vying for top dog position while no one listened to anyone else. Everybody was interested in ME FIRST. Understand ME, hear ME……ignorance abounding, and pain and/or selfishness - or both - underneath it all.
I harkened back to my childhood where I grew up in the midst of this kind of drama. People went for the jugular, patty wagons were called, juvenile hall was involved, items were thrown, dishes were smashed, belts snapped, fists flew, and lives were ruined. The quieter sins were worse.
Trauma. I have worked hard to remove myself from it, and, by God's grace and only His grace, I have. I have labored to keep it out of my children's lives. It’s bottom-feeder behavior. I don’t want to feed off the bottom because there is nothing but the most unsavory of items to be had there. The people engaging in it cannot see how transparent they are. They believe themselves to be presenting a compelling case but everyone witnessing their behavior sees them for who they really are.
I watched a couple of the men in the group try and distract the kids and talk about other things, and I admired them for it. But the women continued their Springer-esque diatribe. No one could stop them, short of the police. It had to play itself out. Not one word could have been uttered that would have made a difference. It was a runaway train and anyone who tried to throw themselves in front of it was mowed down.
This isn’t a funny post, I realize. Maybe I could’ve put that spin on it but violence and utter self focus lack humor and it would have minimized disturbing behavior.
Please go kiss your spouse, hug your kids, smile at the grumpy neighbor, and when we have to stand up for something, for what’s right, let’s bring bravery, intelligence, and wisdom into the situation. And just for a thrill, let’s actually consider the other people involved and listen, carefully and prayerfully, realizing we can be wrong, too. Because it doesn't have to be like this. There is a better way.
If you approach people on these terms you may be a party of one, but yours is the party people will want to be invited to.
by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!
(or a true woman, my daughter.)
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9 (Geneva Study Bible)