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Ramblings from the Empty Nest

"So," she asked in that patronizing kind of way, "What are you doing now?" She was not someone I would consider to be a friend... an acquaintance, one who was always looking for an edge. "I'm doing some volunteer work at St. Joe's Hospital," I said.

"Oh," she said, with an even more annoying tone. "What are you doing there... surgery?" I smiled. It's easy to smile when you are fully aware of the motivations of such a query... Not yet," I replied. "Right now, I'm spending some time in the front lobby, greeting and assisting visitors and patients."

She could hardly wait to get the words out of her mouth... "Do you mean like a Wal-Mart greeter?" You could probably hear me dragging my soapbox out. I have great respect for those that work as greeters at Wal-Mart. In one of my past lives, as the director of an employment program for older Americans, I was able to find such a job for a wonderful man, a photographer who had lost his sight. It gave him an income and, more importantly, dignity....

But... I am digressing. I answered my interrogator with something like this: "Visitor or patient, almost everyone who comes to a hospital has some level of stress. My job is to help alleviate some of that stress if only in a small way. Answering questions, giving directions, providing a wheelchair or escort to those that need help... it all has value.

I began with these two stories.

It was late in the afternoon when a very young mother came through the front door with a baby in an infant seat, an apnea monitor, a diaper bag and a two-year-old boy old in tow. There was an air of purpose about the cleanly but shabbily attired trio. The lost look in the mother's eyes raised an alarm for me. She had come from the southern tier to get specialized help for her apnea-monitored infant. And, of course, she was headed to one of the farthest places from the lobby. Walking at the speed of a two-year-old and weighed down with her baby and equipment, it would take her a very long and tiring time to get to her appointment. I offered to help by carrying her boy down the several long corridors to the doctor's office. I sat with her for a bit as she waited to be seen and she told me that she had just moved from New Jersey, away from her doctors, to be nearer to her husband's family while he was away. She was hoping that on that day, the doctors would free her little girl from the monitor. "It hasn't gone off in a month," she said optimistically. She left later holding her little boy's hand, still carrying the baby carrier and the diaper bag... but without the monitor. She smiled as she passed me in the lobby.

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