I spent the better part of a day at the hospital last week, and had several encounters that made me feel like I was playing one of those “six degrees of separation” games. They also made me realize how closely connected we all can be.

The reason I was in the hospital was to be with a friend who was having day surgery. She asked if I could drop her off in the morning and pick her up after her surgery, but I decided not to waste the back-and-forth travel time, especially with all the construction traffic delays. Plus, I didn’t want her to be alone at the hospital. So I just packed a tote bag – my portable office – so I could make good use of the time. It was the people I interacted with, however, who made it a fulfilling day.

Before I even left my house in the morning, my phone pinged with a Facebook message. It was from my friend’s daughter in Uganda.

“Hello, Betty,” the message said. “I heard you will be taking my mum to the hospital. Please take good care of her.”

I thought about how scary it must be, and how helpless she must feel, to be 8,000 miles away as her mother went through surgery here. So we exchanged messages throughout the day as I kept her updated, reassuring her that her mum was being well taken care of. I also sent regular updates to her sister, who’s here in the States. I think of these girls as my nieces, and felt closer to them as we exchanged messages back and forth.

While my friend was getting prepped for surgery, I was in the family lounge along with several other people. I couldn’t help but hear a conversation that was going on nearby, as a man talked almost non-stop to a woman across the table from him. He seemed pretty outspoken and opinionated, and the woman pretty much just sat and listened. I wondered if she was a relative, or perhaps a social worker or volunteer at the hospital. I found out later she was simply another person waiting during a loved one’s surgery. I admired her for her patience and grace, and the comfort she was giving to someone who obviously just needed to talk.

I smiled at her after the man left, and she said, “You write for the Chanhassen newspaper, don’t you? I love reading your articles.” I was surprised to be recognized, and felt honored to discover that this total stranger – whom I was sitting there thinking so highly of – thought highly of me in return. I can’t imagine I’ll ever see her again, but I know I’ll think of her often. And I’ll smile when I do.

Later on, I ran into someone I usually see only once or twice a year. She works at the hospital, and we spent a few minutes catching up. We made tentative plans to get together for coffee, and I’m going to follow up on that quickly, before the intention slips away – as things like that often do.

My friend’s surgery was successful, by the way, and her day in the hospital was certainly time well-spent.

For both of us.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 10, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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