Saturday, November 1, 2008

Look, But Don't Touch

On Halloween, kids want you to pretend to be scared of them. I saw a rather silly looking werewolf approaching my front porch last night and feigned terror. He laughed. I gave him a glow stick and some candy. We were friends for a few moments.

But when Halloween is over, it's not fun anymore.

After Ei received several breathing treatments and oxygen and steroids and was still not getting any better, the hospital posted a little sign next to our door that said we were an isolation room. This meant that Ei was not to leave the room for any reason, and anyone entering the room was to wear a paper gown and mask to protect himself from airborne germs. It would have been nice if they had shared this information with us. We woke up Monday morning (and I use the term woke loosely--it implies that we slept when we actually only closed our eyes between intruders) to find women in yellow masks and gowns hovering over our bed (we slept together in the hospital bed because he was afraid). Where the night before had been chatty nurses with big smiles, we now had sterile paper columns with eyes. They didn't speak. To do so would only prolong their time in the house of germs. With one foot out the door they offered an insincere, "Can I get you anything?"

I don't blame them. One of the nurses--a really sweet girl--had an 8 month old baby at home. Before we were red-taped I shared with her that my baby was turning 8 months that very day and we compared pictures. I was concerned about bringing the germs home to Baby Aaron. I know she must have had the same fears for her own child. But it just didn't feel good to be stuck in the infirmary while others scurried around the edges trying not to inadvertently get to close.

I love the story from the end of Mark 1 about Jesus healing the leper. If you haven't read it in a while, here it is. In Jesus' time, if a man had leprosy he was isolated from society to avoid making other people unclean. From the time his leprosy was diagnosed until his death, a person with this disease was doomed to live a life of loneliness, watching as others dashed into their homes upon seeing him approach and hearing his sad voice warning, "Unclean!" The leper in this story broke all societal rules and approached Jesus, asserting his firm belief that Jesus could make him well--if he was willing. This is the part I love. Jesus stretches out His hand and touches the man. And, if you really do some digging, you'll discover that He doesn't just touch him. The Greek word used here is haptomai, and this is literally translated to "fasten to" rather than touch. We're talking a full-on contact, folks, not a casual brush of the fingers across this guy. Can you imagine how much this guy needed to be touched? Not just by Jesus, although we could all use that, but by anyone? Can you imagine being shunned from society and living without human contact forever? No hugs, no kisses, no holding hands, no pats on the back--nothing. Jesus didn't have to touch him. He heals a man's son without ever even seeing him. So why did He? I think the key is in the words proceeding the touch: "And moved with compassion, He stretched out His hand" (Mark 1:41). Compassion. Jesus looked at this man and knew that, more than anything else, he needed someone to touch him, to feel no fear of him.

One lady came into our room with only a mask (missing the paper gown). She apologized for wearing the mask but said that she had a little case of the sniffles and didn't want to pass them on to us. She patted my son on the arm before she left. I don't know if she was telling me the truth or not. Perhaps she did have the sniffles and didn't want us to catch them. Or maybe she knew that, in the big scary hospital, we needed someone to stand near us and not be afraid so that we could stop feeling so afraid ourselves. Whatever the case, I loved her for her kindness.

I mean, does this look scary to you?

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