Holy Everything: Superheroes are all around us
Their clothing did not convey the nature of their true superhero identities.
On the outside, one looked like a Mayo patient being transported in a wheelchair, and the other appeared to be a clinic escort ever-ready to move patients around Mayo's campuses. But they were more than a patient and his escort. They were true heroes, and those of us in the Charlton Lab waiting area at the Methodist campus of Mayo Clinic had a front row seat to their grace and humility.
It was about 12:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. The man receiving medical treatment and waiting for someone to push him to his next appointment appeared to be in his 70s. A scruffy beard and tired eyes, he looked the way we'd all look after spending enough time watching our veins become pincushions. The escort smiled when he saw the man. "I'm here to take you to your next appointment."
The man in the wheelchair took a deep breathe and paused. Then he asked, "Were you the one I yelled at this morning?"
The man in the blue shirt smiled and said calmly, "Yeah, that was me."
There was a pause. It was just long enough for those of us observing to feel the gravity that accompanies emotional depth. Authentic moments between strangers have a weightiness to them; this was one such interaction. The recognition that we're all basically the same.
Sheepishly, he looked up at his escort and said, "I'm really sorry about that."
Without missing a beat, the escort began to push the chair out of the waiting area while saying, "It's OK. It's really OK, sir. We all have those days."
All of his words were sincere. He wasn't forcing out a kindness or downplaying the rudeness he might have experienced. Instead, he took the opportunity to remind the exhausted patient that we all have rough days.
"Yeah, I've been having a lot of them lately. Thanks for understanding."
They were out of my line of sight and wheeling down the hallway when I heard the escort conclude, "No problem."
By the time it was my turn for a blood test (just a standard, routine platelet check), I was wiping tears from my eyes. There's something about being in hospital waiting rooms that tends to stir up my emotions. This interaction was no exception, but it felt especially poignant.
I wish I could have bottled up the experience and then encouraged every evening news producer, local and national, to share it. It felt like the start of a revolution. Grace. Forgiveness. Humility. My favorite super hero qualities. It was all wrapped up in just a few minutes.
I enjoyed watching the full two hours of the "Wonder Woman" movie, but my front row seat in the Charlton waiting room was even better.
We're capable of deep kindness toward one another. It took such courage for the patient to apologize, and it took immense grace for the escort to respond with compassion. We don't need to wear super hero costumes in order to embody heroism, and we don't need to go to a movie theater in order to witness displays of bold altruism on the screen. There are heroes in our midst every day spreading contagious compassion. From waiting rooms to board rooms to playgrounds, be on the lookout! They're everywhere.