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A Taste of Heaven

Karen Hochstedler

Karen Hochstedler

Karen worked at the front desk at Maple City Health Care Center. From her desk, she had a clear view of the waiting room.

The waiting room is usually full of all kinds of people – people who speak different languages, people who come from various corners and cultures of the world, people with very different views on what’s proper and polite.

Karen heard the entrance way door open. She looked up from her work. What she saw caused her to worry. A grime-encrusted old man entered the waiting room. One sleeve of his tattered and filthy coat hung limply at his side.

When the man with the missing arm came to the desk, Karen had to hide her response to the man’s noxious odor.

The man took a seat. On one side, a woman shifted her baby’s blanket so as to shield the child from stray spittle. On the other side, the man’s empty sleeve touched the shoulder of a 16 year-old, clean-cut, good-looking Hispanic boy.

A medical assistant called the old man in to his appointment. When the man returned to the waiting room, he carried his coat. The Hispanic boy was still waiting.

Karen watched as the man tried to put on his coat. With only one hand, the man struggled with his coat’s zipper. As Karen thought about leaving her desk to help the man, she also thought about the need to wash her hands afterward and what it would be like to stand in the direct path of the man’s ragged breath.

Karen didn’t have time to do more thinking, however, because the Hispanic boy jumped to the man’s aid.

Karen watched with gratitude and awe as the boy helped the man zip his coat and as the proud old man allowed the boy to help.

In a few minutes that felt like a preview of heaven, Karen saw the boy and the old man introduce themselves, express thanks, exchange smiles, a handshake, and wish each other God’s blessing.

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