The Princess Patient

By Karla Hein

Designer purse over cashmere sweater. She starkly contrasted the casual attire of the other restless patients. She settled herself on the leather sofa, and I concluded that she was a spoiled princess. The air felt extra stale as I heard a young boy’s relentless cough. It’s not fair, I whined. This is an obstetrician’s office, not a walk-in clinic! We shouldn’t have to worry about catching a cold!

Ms. Princess jotted notes in her day-planner and paid no attention to the coughing outbursts. Her earrings matched the planner’s cover perfectly. I hadn’t realized other women attempted such fashionable expression! I was pleased whenever I had clean clothes to wear—of any shade. Suddenly, a gut-wrenching gag erupted across the room. I heard the sound of liquid splattering on the floor. The little boy whimpered, coughed, and spewed again. Patients froze in horror. But not Ms. Princess.

She quickly disappeared from the room. She was back in a moment with a wad of paper towels for the flustered mother. While trying to comfort her now crying child, the mother attempted to clean herself, the floor and her distraught son.

“I have an extra set of clothes from my little boy that you can have,” Ms. Princess offered. “I have a change of clothes in my car as well,” the mother replied as she and her son hurried to the bathroom. I sat quietly, reanalyzing my earlier judgment of Princess Lady. She had resumed her position on the couch, but I no longer perceived an arrogant attitude.

The mother eventually returned with her little son stripped down to his shorts, shivering. Ms. Princess again was the first to offer help. A genuine smile lit up her face as she handed the mother a little blue backpack of clean clothes. I felt God’s conviction in my heart. “You shut down any good behaviour coming from that woman based on her appearance, yet you did not leap up to help the sick, little boy. You assumed an outward humility but inwardly you were annoyed with his endless coughing. This lady’s kindness shone brighter than your criticism.”

Recently, I read the Parable of the Good Samaritan to my four-year-old (Luke 10:25–37). As I read to a little mind still stuck in concrete thought, I noticed that the two men deemed closest to God—the supposed good guys—passed by the hurting man. The opportunity was there “when he saw the man” (v. 31), but the choice (however subtle or laced with righteous excuse) was to avoid and move on. Enter the Samaritan who also had a moment of observation, but instead “took pity” on the victim (v. 33). The same Greek word, which means to be moved in the inward part, is used about Jesus in Matthew 9:36, “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.”

The lawyer, who asked the famous “Who is my neighbour?” question is said to have asked because “he wanted to justify himself” (Luke 10:29). Oh, foolish lawyer! No one can acquit himself or replace his own heart of stone!

Karla Hein

What compels me from indifferent observation to being moved to respond with compassion? Being transformed through humble submission to God! “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25).

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