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Creative Synthesis: The Guards and Compassion

I was upset, because my friend had been admitted—not his idea—to a mental health facility for evaluation. I was nervous because I’d never been to a mental hospital before. (Yes, I’d painted the lobby at Whitfield for the Junior League, but this was a whole different ballgame.) Finally, I was frightened because it was two days after Halloween and I’d just walked down a long, dark, deserted nighttime street by myself into a mental hospital lit up like every scary movie you’ve ever seen.

And the guards were so nice.

The two at the security desk made excuses to keep the conversation flowing. Talking, it seemed to me, to calm me down like a trainer to a jittery horse. The woman behind the glass who gave me the security badge, she could have been your grandmother. The man who walked me to the elevator was patient when I pushed the wrong button (“It’s the silver one, now.”) Afterwards, when I had to pace to regain my composure, the woman chaperoning our visit said one of those inconsequential things you say just to reassure.

During the course of the visit, I was handed from guard to guard and each one said, “He’s sick. He’ll get help.” He wasn’t sick—at least not before he was admitted—but I understood what they were trying to do. They wanted to make me feel better about someone they knew I cared for. The other woman they’d led in with me, her patient wouldn’t come out to see her. The guards suddenly knew my friend better than I did.

Today, I pray that, like all things in the world, God can turn this experience into something wonderful for my friend. I pray that the guards—those enforcing the system that has clamped its hand on my friend—will treat him with as much compassion as they showed me.

Here’s to creative synthesis . . .

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