I met him 20 years ago, but only for a few minutes. I was doing an internship in the hospital, and I hated every minute of it.
I was 24, and the thought of hanging around sick people held no attraction whatsoever. I was not very good at it either. So what I would do was visit as many sleeping people as I could. That way I could check it off as a visit, but not actually have to interact with anyone.
This is how good I was. One day, I was sent to one room for a visit. The lights were off, and the A/C was chilling the room to what seemed like 40 degrees. Because the bathroom was right inside the door, I had to take a few steps into the room to see the bed. The patient was curled up in a ball under the sheets. I offered a very timid, “Hello?”
Silence. (Check this one off and hit the vending machine. This visit earned me a TWIX, for sure.) As I quietly backed out of the room, I heard the word I dreaded, “Hello.” She was awake.
I stepped back into the room and offered my stock introduction.
Me: “Hi. My name is Patrick Day. I’m interning as a chaplain and stopped by to visit. I can come back if you’re trying to get some rest.” (Please tell me to come back. I’m done in an hour, and I can hand this off to someone else. Please.)
Her: “It’s all right. Come in.”
Me: “Okay, how are you?”
Her: “HORRIBLE! People keep coming in and bugging me.”
Me: “Mumble, mumble, mumble. Oh, look, a baby wolf!” (Now, run like Hell!)
That’s how my internship went until my second to last day. MY SECOND TO LAST DAY.
The head chaplain paged me. (Remember those things?) When I got to the office, he told me to head up to the NICU. There was a family who had just given birth to a son way too early. The baby was on life support. They were getting ready to turn off the machines and wanted the child baptized. They were Presbyterian, and so was I. Damn it.
As I took the elevator up to the NICU, I had a million thoughts running through my head. I’m not even ordained yet. It won’t count. (Seriously, Patrick?) But if they’re Presbyterian, they should know that God doesn’t care if the child’s baptized. God will welcome that child with open arms. (Of course, Patrick, because Presbyterian Theology 101 is what’s on their mind right now.)
The doors opened, and the social worker met me at the desk. She told me how it would work and handed me the holiest water that would ever touch my hands. She saw something on my face, because she said, “If you’re not comfortable doing this, I’ll do it. I’ve done hundreds.” (Hundreds? Where do I throw up?)
I met the family. His mother held him. I knelt beside.
“Lucas, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Child of the covenant, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
25 minutes later, he was home.
Here’s the thing. You will be asked to do some things in your life that you won’t think you’ll be able to do. Saying NO to those things will not get you what you hope it will. If you want to grow, if you want to move toward being the person you think you need to be, then saying YES is the way to go. Saying YES does not make those things any easier. They’ll suck. They’ll be hard. They will drive you to your knees.
But they are worth it. And you’ll do them.
Because you can.