For Christmas, I got pneumonia, and it ended up being the best gift I could have gotten.
Wait. What?Keep reading.
Ordinarily, being sick wouldn’t bother me one bit. It could happen on any day of the year, at any time (even Christmas), and I wouldn’t be very bothered by it. This time around, however, things were different. For some reason I could not initially explain, I was incredibly bothered that I was stuck in the hospital, alone, with pneumonia, on Christmas. It wasn’t that I was stuck in the hospital; it turned out to be a rather pleasant place to be and the staff were very friendly. It wasn’t that I was sick; I could have cared less about that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t financially afford to go home and spend the holiday with my family, either–even knowing it would probably by my grandmother’s last Christmas being able to recognize any of us. It wasn’t even knowing that I wouldn’t be able to afford this hospital bill. Yet I found myself bothered. Going back to my journal from December 27th, here is what I wrote:
“So what bothers me? It is the fact that I didn’t even want to go home in the first place. It’s that even had I been well, I still only wanted to be left alone, despite my nagging desire for company. It was that, even had I never gotten sick or gone to the hospital, I still needed help.”
Without going into a great deal of detail, the general backstory behind this post is that for a year and a half, I was stuck in a vacuum of loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear, and doubt. By the end of last semester, I was drowning in an ocean of ‘what if’. I found myself losing sleep because my mind would not settle down until it had tired itself out from exploring every last ‘what if’ it could think of–and being an abstract thinker, there’s a whole lot of ‘what if’ to be explored. I’m fairly confident that I would have done better on a couple finals had I not spent so much time pondering things I knew better than to think about.
About a month before Christmas break hit, I had a feeling I would not have the money to make the drive back to Wisconsin, live there for a month (without income), and return to Missouri. A couple weeks later, this knowledge solidified itself into clear reality, so I started exploring various options for where I might stay for break. I landed on house-sitting for a friend who would be going to visit his own family for break. Well, the house turned out to be a garage that was in the process of being converted to a small apartment. It was thinly insulated with a roof that leaked water whenever the ice melted, and heated by a woodstove that leaked smoke. It was fun at first (woodstoves make guys feel manly), but the excitement quickly faded. Within a few days I started feeling sick and within a week I could hardly get out of bed without feeling like the world was spinning around me.
Enter family and friends. My friend would come over almost every day to keep me company and simply started taking care of me. I didn’t have much say in the matter, either; I could barely take care of myself as it was. In hindsight, I find it ironic that although I wanted to be left alone to sit and sift through my thoughts for a month, I physically needed somebody to be there to take care of me. By Christmas Eve, I could barely look at a screen. I had messaged my dad that I was sick, and his fiancé (yay for a soon-to-be stepmom!) managed to coax me into going to the hospital. Two chest x-rays later, I was told “yeah, you’re not going anywhere tonight.” From then until waking up the next morning, I don’t remember too much.As I was getting ready to leave the hospital the next day, my friend showed up and invited (more like told) me to stay with her family at least for the night until I could find another place to stay for the remainder of break. One night turned into two, two nights turned into three, and by the third I was invited to simply stay for the remainder of break. If I remember correctly, the wording my friend’s mom used was a little bit closer to “well, we figured you’d just be staying here for the rest of break anyway.” I was humbled and a little overwhelmed.
For the next two-and-a-half weeks, I experienced something I had never really experienced before: family. Sure, I have family at home, but for along as I can remember, it’s always been broken. I’ve never known what family could be besides broken. This family blew my mind. The parents had been together for 22 years, loved each other deeply, and loved their kids like no tomorrow, and had good relationships with them. More than that, they took me in and loved me like one of their own. To some, this may not seem significant. To me, it was mind-blowing. It was so overwhelming that some nights I retreated to my headphones just so I could try to process through what I was experiencing.But there’s more to the story.
Enter two dear friends from home. They had left their own home in east-central Wisconsin three weeks previously under the assumption they would be gone only three days to speak at a festival in Iowa. God had other plans and told them to keep going, to keep driving. They had no money, and only a few days’ worth of clothes each, but they trusted God to take care of them. Three weeks later, they found themselves in Kansas City with a completely dead car battery that wouldn’t charge enough to start their vehicle and no money to even fill their tank, let alone buy a new battery.
I didn’t actually find out from them that they were stuck there. A mutual friend had made a post on Facebook asking people to donate to their Google Wallet account. I recognized the email and messaged my friend who was stuck asking if he was still in Kansas City. He said yes. Knowing I had little money of my own but also knowing I was the only person they knew in Missouri, I started asking around to see if anyone I knew could donate money to help him out. Of all people, it was my college’s interim president who gave me $100 to take to them. I drove to Kansas City, they used the money to buy a new car battery, and, after a phone call to make sure it would be okay, I convinced them to come stay with the family I was staying with at least for a night. One night turned into two, and then they were on their way. I am completely convinced that the reason God left them ‘stranded’ in Kansas City is because I needed to see them. During the two days that they stayed with us, somewhere in the midst of our talks, I reached a breaking point in which all of the loneliness, depression, anxiety, fear, and doubt I talked about earlier was relieved. I can’t pinpoint when, or how, but I know that by the time they left, my faith had been rekindled, the blindfold had fallen away from my eyes, and my heart had started beating again. Even the family I was staying with said they felt blessed by these two ‘strangers’ they had taken in. But God had further plans for my two friends, and they were back on their way–this time, with a full tank of gas, extra cash in their wallet, and a new battery in their car. And my spirit was filled with peace. For once, I wasn’t worried, anxious, or scared. More than that, I found myself eager to return to Bible college for a sixth semester and keep pressing on toward my goals.