My new coaching client sat across from me, suddenly distracted. Her eyes ‘popped’ in shock. She gasped. We had spent a bit over forty minutes talking, exploring her dreams, her talents, her desires, and the challenges to match. Unlike most of my clients, who are working through one trauma or another, she had come for career help, and I had asked her a question. The sudden diversion startled me.
Instinctively my eyes followed her gaze and I saw him, an elderly man, hitting the cement, then leaning up a few inches and dropping again. Did he try to lift himself up, or did his body bounce? I saw it and wondered.
The mind and body are fascinating, in a moment like that, when consulting reason is not even on the radar; they simply engage one another in reasonable and necessary action. Nor does dignity or any other thing hold an ounce of importance, or factor in, in any way, in a moment like that. I shot to my feet, and ran through the coffee shop, and before my mind had fully registered what it was I saw, I found myself kneeling beside the gentleman. He struggled, attempting to sit up. I put my arms around him, and leaned him slightly forward to lift his head from the unkind hardness, while asking him questions. He was coherent. I felt the cement under his back, and wished I had an extra sweater, a jacket or a blanket. I had enough dignity that I wasn’t willing to sit there in my bra so he could have my sweater, but I certainly would, if needed, to save a life. Most of us would.
From my vantage point there was no blood, until I sat him up. That is when I saw blood running down his temple, his neck and onto his chest and shoulders, and his hand dripping a steady pace. I looked for something to use as a compress, at the same time as I asked my client, who had followed me out, to go in and find napkins or something and bring them back, and to make sure to call and ambulance.
The manager came running and for the next twenty minutes, or so, we sat there, holding an elderly man’s hand and forehead. There was blood on the ground, blood on his pants, his shirt and matted into his hair. It was all over our hands and arms, and a bit on my white shirt. Blood stands out on white. My client sat behind the gentleman, providing a back-rest, while the manager held his forehead, and I held his hand–now gripping mine in solid tension. We chatted and laughed, as we sat there. He was so appreciative and said he was okay, that he had just lost his footing. It had happened a few days ago, too, and he had hurt his finger. He showed us his crooked finger, bent at the last joint, in an almost -perfect 90 degree angle.
As we sat with him, bleeding all over us and himself, people drove by. They looked. A few gentlemen came and asked if there was anything they could do. One was a fireman, the others made no indication that they had any training. They were just concerned.
Something else happened as we sat there, all covered in blood. In fact, two things. First of all, we bonded. We cared for him. We held his wounds. We connected. (Admittedly, I was afraid to ‘touch’ his raw wounds. Not because I feared being contaminated but because I feared contaminating them. One never knows for sure what germs or bacteria we have come in contact with and the immunity of the elderly potentially being compromised, I assessed the extent of the bleeding. It wasn’t life-threatening, though steady, so I waited for the compresses. (Obviously, had he been bleeding profusely, I would have taken the chance.) And the second thing that happened was that we learned a bit of his story. He told us that he had a ‘weaker side’ because of a stroke twenty years ago and hence the recent tumbles.
By this time we had retrieved an umbrella from his truck, and sat there, in a spritzing rain, talking and still holding his wounds. A staff member came with some forms and asked questions. What did we see? Who saw it first and what did we do? Who were we all. Names. Addresses. Phone numbers. All those things.
The paramedic arrived and together we helped the gentleman stand up, and seated him on a chair, under the awning. We stayed a few minutes, answering his questions, then went inside to wash the blood off. The red stain on my white new sweater stayed. I hung my scarf over it, and returned one more time to the elderly gentleman, to wish him well. That’s when I thought of his wife, at home, and how worried she would be. Would it be okay if I popped by their home to tell her he was okay, but needed stitches and to get checked over? He thanked me and said how nice that would be.
I had just given my new client a good-bye hug–you do that after intense moments like that–and was almost to my car when the manager caught up to me. The gentleman had one valid concern. His wife would need the vehicle, but would have no way to get it. I said I would offer to drive her back to him, and to get the truck.
She met me at the door, moments later after I rang the bell. To make sure I had the right house I asked, “Are you Mrs. ____?”
“Yes….” she said, looking quizzically at me.
“First of all, your husband is okay, so don’t worry, but he did have a tumble at the coffee shop. He said you would need the vehicle–would it be okay if I drove you there?”
Moments later I dropped her off, made sure she had everything she needed and headed for home. The rain had picked up, and I remembered that my car window was stuck… open. My old Mazda had picked this day to malfunction with an open back window. How convenient. I tried half a dozen times, unsuccessfully.
I took to pleading with God, at that moment, about something as piddly as a stuck window, all because I didn’t want rain in my car. I tried again and, “Tada!!” it went up. I whispered a thank you as I drove out off of the coffee shop parking lot.
My mind got busy then, thinking about many things. Why does God answer little prayers about broken windows, and neglect big ones like a dying loved one, a chronically ill family member, those who desperately need jobs and many other things. And I had no easy answers. Just the awareness that God is God.
I saw the blood again, and the elderly gentleman’s eyes, as he thanked us and told us how nice we were. And then the awareness that his blood had been all over me, and I had hesitated to touch his wounds, afraid of contaminating them.
That’s when my mind wandered to church. To people who are bleeding. And we sit there, like my client and I, in our coffee shops. And I wondered if we get so busy with our coffee, and conversations, and whatever things we all do, while people bleed only feet away. I thought of how I had my back turned, and my client–thank goodness she was ADHD, she said, and observing everything–was the one who noticed the gentleman, almost before it happened. He could have been there an hour, with me only feet away, if she hadn’t been there. And, while that wouldn’t have likely happened, I couldn’t help but think about, when I considered church. Or if, when we see the ‘fallen and bleeding’, do we even run to them, or do we get scared and run the other way again.
I wondered what it would be like, in church, if we stopped being afraid of each other’s cuts, and wounds and scars. What if we weren’t afraid to get all bloody, and have stains on our new white clothes. And if we put our hands on those gaping wounds without fear of contaminating, or being contaminated, and we held each other up, spiritually, even while we bled… And sitting there, under an umbrella in the rain, we could get to know each other and hear the stories behind the pain… the stories about why we have ‘weak sides’ and stumble…
And then, when the weak ones, with bleeding wounds, need help with walking to a place of rest, we who are stronger could square back our shoulders and let them rest on our strength until they are safe…. Until they find that rest in the One who Bled Love for us, all messy and dipped in grace, when we were in that place of need and brokenness…
What if… Yes…. What if?
© Trudy Metzger
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Oh for the grace to be in places where Jesus can use us likewise. May Jesus bless you for your kindness and compassion.
I love this. I think we all have the knee-jerk reaction to step in when someone is “bleeding” in front of us literally, but when it’s just figuratively, we shy away. Finding someone who can say to us, “You’re messed up, I’ve been there, let’s talk,” rather than, “You’re messed up, glad I would never do something like that,” (or admit to it) is rare. We never know who we’ll get, and therefore keep our “messes” to ourselves many times. And on the opposite end, if we want to help, we may never know who needs it most because they’re bleeding on the inside. Human judgment holds such power over so many. Thanks for sharing ~ this was great.
Powerful story…and powerful lesson.