Where to Begin
Channel surfing a few nights ago, I stumbled onto the last ten minutes of the ABC show Combat Hospital. The setting is a trauma hospital set somewhere near the front in one of the Middle East wars. My first impression was that it seems like a modern day M*A*S*H without the humor—much darker, grittier.
The episode that I entered right near the end went something like this:
A soldier was horribly wounded. One of the brilliant combat surgeons knit his spine back together so he would eventually regain sufficient use of his arms and be able, as a result, to hold his baby girl back home.
The soldier was ungrateful, and spat out that the surgeon just should have let him die. This caused the surgeon to simmer with anger and eventually dump all of his vitriol on the base chaplain, dismissing her with, “I pity you for your utter uselessness” because all she does is “be there” for other people who are hurting.
After seething with rage a while longer, however, the surgeon seeks out the chaplain and asks her to walk with him.
The closing scene shows the two of them setting out slowly, with him saying, “ I don’t know where to begin.” Her discerning reply: “You already have.”
There were two key insights in that moving scene for me:
First, when I am lost or hurting, many times my last response is to reach out. It often seems easier to pull back, hunker down, gut it out. Except that we are created to be in community—especially when we are in pain.
I’m not talking pity party here. But when we set down the façade of lives lived in apparent harmony and complete calm, and begin to share the truth—the good, the bad and the ugly–about our relationships, work, faith and health, we are beginning to truly live a Fully Engaged life.
And second, as the brilliant surgeon learned, just being there is often more precious than doing anything.
If you’re hurting today—reach out. If not—be available.
DO less. BE more.