reflections from a waiting room

haitian children

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

July 31, 2012


haitian children

Her name tag reads “Colleen.” She wears blue scrubs, and the embroidered patch on her shirt reads “Eye Surgery…Something.” She sits still, bent to the side a tad with right elbow leaning on the chair arm, palm on cheek. She’s crossed right knee over left and wears the tiniest white work shoes, maybe even size 4. She wraps her left arm around the big, red, soft leather purse in her lap. The only sign of movement is the constant twirling of long blond hair around right index finger.

Stillness is a good quality for someone who works to improve sight.

I wonder why she’s here. To get the last of her hepatitis B shots? To be tested for HIV after a needlestick? (Been there. Done that.)

God, please protect Colleen and bless her work.

The little guy next to her, he’s not so patient. He looks to be about five years old, and he’s climbing all over his older sister. She’s wearing one of those yellow silicone bracelets, and I can only read the last letters–OUGH. I try to figure out the rest of it. Rough? Tough? Enough? He wants to play “hot hands,” teases her about her boyfriend. She laughs, tells him to “shut up if you want some ice cream.”

Mom, she sits quiet, shakes her head at the boy. She draws him close, smooths his hair, rubs his back, kisses the top of his head. Smiling. Always smiling. He’s here for kindergarten shots, I’m guessing, and wonder if he’ll be a little more subdued when he leaves.

God, thank you for placing this boy in this loving family, and please give the nurse patience.

I dig around in my canvas tote and fish out an intensive care unit visitor’s brochure. I scribble notes in its margins—gray tweed-like carpet faded and stained, large rust spot from the form-a-line pole base, bright red take-a-ticket stand, ticket shreds on the floor, black-armed burgundy chairs line walls and sit back-to-back in room’s center.

I note signs and posters. “Language assistance is provided free of charge.” “Their dreams are in your hands.” “Protect the Circle of Life. Immunize Our Nations.”

A nurse calls Emily. She’s a wisp of a girl with a shy smile and long dark hair. The ruffles of her black and white sundress flounce, and she grasps her dad’s right hand with both of hers as they follow the nurse. They come back out a few minutes later with paperwork for the receptionist and then return. This time she’s got a grip on the back of dad’s shirt. When they leave, dad’s backpack dangles from his right arm, and he’s carrying her. She’s wrapped her legs around his waist and arms around his neck. I get a peek at her face nestled against dad’s chin, big brown eyes rimmed red. A tiny river trickles down her right cheek.

“What a dad!” I think.

Thanks, God, for your own “daddyness” towards us. Please wipe away Emily’s tears and replace them with a smile.

I’m pretty sure I’m next. I tuck my pen and brochure back in my bag and sit Colleen-calm, but no twirling.

God, you know how I’d rather be on the other end of the needle. Please take away any shred of anxiety, and help me relax.

I ask Him to watch over those children in the orphanage and to pave a clear way to Haiti later this year. I’m here because of them.

And sometimes we have to hurt a little before we can help others.


Photo by Tami Heim of the children in Jeremie, Haiti, and used with permission. I will be traveling with a team from Long Hollow Baptist Church to minister here in December.


  1. Sheila Seiler Lagrand


    I never expected anybody to wring beauty out of the health department waiting room. So glad you’re here. Love you.

  2. Megan Willome

    I love that your journey to Haiti starts here, in this post, getting shots. And, of course, you notice things others don’t, since you’re a nurse. So glad you’re the new Pray Editor for Dan.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thanks, Megan. Interesting how He weaves our tapestries, isn’t it? I’m so glad you’re part of mine. (I have no idea what to expect in December. I’m a little anxious about that–but I’m in good hands, here on earth as well has in heaven.)

  3. Martha Orlando

    Is there any place or time you can’t describe so adeptly? 🙂 I felt I was sitting right beside you in this waiting room, feeling God’s presence. Beautifully crafted, Sandy! Blessings to you and for your trip to Haiti!

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thanks, friend. If I’d been able to get Facebook service, I might not have taken in the sights–or the notes. Now I need to find the notebook I carry for just such a times as those. 🙂

  4. soulstops

    love this:”Stillness is a good quality for someone who works to improve sight.” Appreciate how you see, and then help us see. Blessings as you prepare to go to Haiti, Sandra 🙂
    P.S. How’s the avocado see you planted with your grandgirl?

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thanks, Dolly.

      P.S. I lost patience with the seed. It split, and we could see it wanted to do something, but it got stuck somehow. We’ll have to try again. 🙂

  5. Heather Bowie

    This is beautiful. I love the on the spot prayers and what a perfect place for God to use those recognitions. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Thanks so much, Heather. I need to practice this more often. It was a good way to get my focus off me. 🙂


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

reflections from a waiting room

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min