“Sarina,” my roommate said as she opened the bathroom door while I was conditioning my hair. “He wants us to go to the hospital.”
I groaned. “Are you serious?” I peeked around the shower curtain to see her standing by the toilet.
“Yeah, I’m serious. After your shower, we’re going to head over.”
“Okay,” I said as I shut the curtain. Our friend injured himself playing basketball and needed stitches.
It was midnight when my friends and I made it to the Salem Hospital. However, security told us the ER waiting room was closed for now, so we made our way to the empty chapel room next to the security checkpoint.
We spread ourselves out among the chairs. There were six of us total and we all settled in for the long haul.
About 30 minutes later, three men walked in toward the ER. One of them joined us in the chapel room. He looked no older than 25, just a few years older than all of us. He was wearing a black, flat-billed hat and a black, zip-up hoodie over a loose fitting black t-shirt with dark wash jeans. His hair was parted down the middle and pulled back into a loose ponytail. He had a small goatee on his chin that he would rub when he talked to us.
He was noticeably intoxicated and very outspoken. He asked us what we were doing there and we told him we were about to pray for our friend in the ER. “Who are you praying to?” he asked, while fidgeting in his chair.
“We’re going to pray to Jesus Christ,” one of my friends told him. “What about you? Who do you pray to?”
“I don’t believe in Jesus or anything like that,” the man said to us. He went on to tell us he prays to Mother Earth. He doesn’t believe in God or religion; he believes in finding happiness in himself. “You are your own religion,” he said.
He told us the number of people he’s lost in his lifetime and how he dropped out of college. We sat and listened to him intently. We nodded and made eye contact with him when he shifted his gaze from the floor to each of us.
“To have a good life, you have to make your happiness, so you have to live for today,” he told us. And that’s when I felt the need to step in.
“You know, we have a lot in common,” I said. “We can’t change ourselves, but we believe Jesus changes us and gives us not just a good life, but a great life.”
“And a lot of what you’re saying reminds me of something Jesus said in Luke 12:24,” my friend said to him. “He talks about how God takes care of the birds and the birds don’t worry about tomorrow. They just live. So, we shouldn’t worry about anything, because He even cares for the birds.”
He nodded in agreement. No indication of any big change. No huge light bulb going off for him. He just shifted his gaze around the room.
We sat in silence for a few moments and then I led our group into prayer for our friend and this man and his friend. Soon after our prayers, the ER waiting room opened up and we headed in to wait for our friend. He walked out with just 6 stitches and some gauze around his hand.
Our new friend wasn’t so lucky. He and his friend, with alcohol poisoning, left in handcuffs. It’s only been a few days since the incident and I can’t stop thinking about this brief meeting we had.
It made me realize how privileged all of my friends and I are to be in a place like Corban. We may not have seen this man make huge life decisions, but we didn’t back down. We stood our ground and, with as much grace as we could, entered into a conversation we didn’t know how to navigate.
But I’ll tell you one thing I won’t forget about that night: the look he gave us when we asked if he wanted to pray with us. And the reminder he left me with: always show grace.