An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up and flee to Egypt with the baby and His mother," the angel said, "and stay there until I tell you to return." Matthew 2:13
What kind of life circumstances cause a young woman with a new baby to leave her home and move to a new city where she doesn’t know anyone at all? What could be so bad in her life that she would prefer being a stranger in a strange town to staying in the only place she has known her entire life? What kind of strength needs to be summoned from within to be willing to move all alone?
Diana and her two-month-old baby, Tyrone, moved from their hometown in another state one month ago. They are now living in a homeless shelter for women with children. Diana quickly developed a friendship with Iesha, another young mother at the shelter. With the exception of her new friend, Diana doesn’t know a soul here. She has a lot of pieces to put together to start a new life in a new town. In the best of circumstances, this would be extremely difficult. In the worst of circumstances, it is nearly impossible.
Everyone at the homeless shelter has been sick. Stomach flu, head colds, you name it, illness has been going around. Now Tyrone was sick. He was congested and vomiting. He had no appetite and all he did was scream. You couldn’t miss this family when they came into the clinic. For their entire three-hour visit here, Tyrone screamed. He didn't fuss, he didn't cry, he screamed and writhed in obvious pain. He was inconsolable. I don't think there is anything more difficult than to watch a baby suffer and be unable to relieve it. Diana was worn out and very stressed. Her tears were falling right along with Tyrone's tears.
We offer an immunization clinic at our WIC(Women,Infants and Children)program during the summer months, and the nurses that run it are angels. Seriously. I am sorry to say that I often complain about the three days each week that the nurses are here, as the clinic is extra busy and extra noisy. We have a vastly larger than usual amount of children crying because they don’t want to receive the shots that can keep them healthy. The nurses smile, sing, play and do whatever it takes to make the children happy. They put up with the kicking, crying and running-down-the-hall-to-escape-the-shots behavior from the children. It’s not easy to feel that kids are afraid of you, yet these nurses know that it is so important for the little ones to get their immunizations to stay healthy, that they all keep genuine smiles on their faces all day long and talk about how much they love their jobs. It really takes a special kind of person to be an immunization and school based nurse and we are blessed at our WIC clinic to have the very best!
As soon as they heard little Tyrone screaming in the clinic, they went above and beyond the normal call of duty to assist this young family. They started right in with giving feeding advice. I thought I could just turn my job right over to them as they were doing it so well! They knew that Tyrone didn’t have any insurance or a doctor yet, so while Diana was talking with me, they called a nurse practitioner from the School-Based Nurse Program to come to the WIC clinic to take a look at the little one.
As Diana and I talked and worked to get them signed up for WIC benefits, I fed Tyrone and held him and did my best to comfort him. Diana told me that she was planning on taking Tyrone to the free clinic after their WIC appointment. Just getting there would be a tremendous challenge, as their transportation would be by city bus. Diana would have to carry Tyrone, as well as all of the formula that she would be receiving from WIC (there is a pharmacy in the building where moms can cash their WIC checks and receive the formula right away)along with her on that bus ride. That's a lot to manage! When he finally settled down in my arms, I leaned over to comfort Diana with a hug as well. She was so overwhelmed and her tears were rapidly falling. A hug was the best I could give her.
As we left my office, the Nurse Practitioner was arriving. She set up an empty office as a medical clinic and performed a quick exam on Tyrone. She gave comforting advice to Diana and she helped to direct her to some follow-up medical care. Her presence in the WIC Clinic saved Diana that challenging bus ride across town.
While Diana and Tyrone were busy with the nurse, I went to the waiting room to visit with Iesha and her son who came with Diana and Tyrone to the clinic and were so patiently waiting. I had no idea at the time that they had only recently met. I thanked Iesha for being such a good friend to Diana. I told her that I wished I had a friend like that, and that Diana was extremely lucky to have her. She brushed it off as if it were nothing. And maybe it would have been nothing for a life-long friend, but for a new acquaintance, it was quite a big deal to spend a whole day taking a young mother and her son to all of their appointments and then waiting for them for hours. Iesha is another angel.
By the time Tyrone and Diana were settled down and had left the clinic, I was wiped out! But not those sweet nurses! They walked out of the clinic with smiles on their faces talking about what a great day it was because they helped someone in need.
Dearest Holy Family, You know how hard it is to leave your home and begin again in a strange place. You felt the discomfort and pain of exile with a baby. Bless and look after all women who leave their homes to start over in the hopes of a better life, especially if that better life is begun in a homeless shelter. Bless and look after all women who rise to the challenge of being a friend to women who are alone in the world. And bless all nurses who give their hearts and souls to caring for the sick and needy of this world. Keep sending us your angels Lord, we need them! Amen.
(names are fictional)