PEOPLE WATCHING IN THE WAITING ROOM
We’ve all been there, sitting in waiting rooms. It’s a regular part of life.
I didn’t have an appointment and was relegated to the line of walk-ins. Ugh! How I wished I had planned ahead with an appointment so the process would be less time-consuming! Not today. I watched as those with appointments quickly got in and exited moments later.
Like almost everyone else in the packed waiting room, I had buried myself in my phone. I’d scanned my social media, added a word to an online game, and checked my texts and emails – but I was still waiting.
I felt the impatience grow but then I was reminded of an idea I had recently read about at Chronic Joy called Holy Attention – People Watching. I was struck by this spiritual practice of really noticing those around me.
My eyes were drawn to the many cultures represented in the room. I could hear the whispers of various languages. Someone struggled to understand the receptionist. I watched how she patiently tried to communicate.
OPPORTUNITIES TO PRAY
I couldn’t help but overhear another man as he talked at the front desk. His voice carried across the room as he nervously explained how anxious he was about needles. Even the sight of a needle would put him over the edge. He was told to have a seat while he waited. As you may have guessed, he ended up sitting down beside me. Breathing rapidly and muttering to himself, he was trying to calm himself down.
Needles are not anxiety-producing for me, but I do understand anxiety firsthand. Put me near an MRI tube and I would be feeling just like this fellow. I began praying for him, asking God to give him peace. Then, I wondered whether I should speak to him.
I did – hesitantly.
So, I said “I’m sorry.” I affirmed that it was hard and tried to remind him that the staff would help him when he went in for his appointment. I suggested he think of one of his favorite places to try to calm him. He thanked me with a shaky smile.
What I wished I could offer him was Jesus and His Word – and tell him how these things have made all the difference for me when I am anxious. Though I didn’t verbally offer him this, I prayed silently as he went off to have his blood taken. I saw him 20 minutes later exiting the clinic. He had done it successfully.
As I looked around again, I noticed some who were impatient with the wait times. The receptionist seemed to be growing weary as she faced the never-ending line of people. I smiled at a happy couple who were expecting a baby – doing tests to make sure all was well. I prayed for each of them.
FROM IMPATIENCE TO GRATITUDE
I was struck by how blessed I am to have access to health care. Then, I thanked God for the doctors I would see later in the week at upcoming appointments.
I noticed people differently and wondered what their stories were. What had brought them here today? I prayed for every person I saw – every one so loved by God, each with their own set of needs, hurts, and journeys – that God would meet them right where they were at that moment.
When I was finally called to the back, I glanced at the clock and found the time had passed quickly. In fact, I would say the time felt purposeful – that somehow my gratitude had grown instead of my attitude becoming put out by the wait time.
Can I encourage you to print out Holy Attention – People Watching? Tuck it in your pocket or purse the next time you go to an appointment. See how God can use that waiting room for some holy work – in your life and the life of others.
Father, thank you for the times of waiting. Help us to truly see others with your eyes. To look around us with curiosity. May we listen to your promptings and experience times of waiting with holy attention. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
- When was the last time you were prompted to pray for a stranger?
- How could Holy Attention help refocus your times of waiting?
- How has noticing others led to a place of gratitude in your own life?
Chronic Joy® Staff Writer and Prayer Team
Kara and her husband Conrad live in Calgary, Canada, where she was a teacher for 28 years. She loves the Word of God and encourages others through her devotional writing. Kara felt led to write a book of devotionals (Searching for Sea Glass) when her journey with chronic illnesses pressed her into God’s arms of love more deeply. She prays that her journey and refinement will encourage you in your walk with God.
Eye-Spy • People Watching
Holy Attention draws us into fresh gratitude. When we pay close attention to creation we can experience the awe and wonder of God’s infinite creativity.