June 7, 2017

The Plotted Path

Dixil Rodríguez

Some days, I am aware of purposely searching for evidence that we are still inspired to transformative actions by the Holy Spirit. Some days, like today, the Holy Spirit seems to provoke a calm, invitational pause, reminding me that sometimes transformative actions have been going on for a long time. I just have to stand still and witness the great work.

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On any given afternoon, you will find Jenny and Megan sitting together in the Pediatric Oncology Hospital play room. The play room is a place for precious children to spend time away from their hospital beds. A beautiful space cared for by volunteers, it is a welcome respite from the hospital room.

Today, Jenny and Megan sit on a table with large pieces of drawing paper and a bucket of crayons. They are best friends. They are both eight years old. They both have too much knowledge and experience about what happens in this hospital, as they have been patients here for an unusually long time. They both still laugh every day.

“It’s a mountain,” says Megan. “It’s bigger than the other ones.”

Recently, on a few occasions while I visited with nurses in the evening, we watched Jenny sneak out of her hospital bed to check on Megan after Megan’s oncology treatment. On my visit last weekend, while the two sat together in Jennifer’s hospital bed, I saw Megan, under the watchful eye of a nurse, hold a cup of water to her friend’s lips and help Jenny drink.

Today, during family time at the play room, Jenny and Megan sit across the table from one another, drawing, enjoying a moment of peace, laughing and talking. Then silence. Jenny stands up and looks at Megan’s picture. “What are you drawing?” she asks.

“It’s a mountain,” says Megan. “It’s bigger than the other ones.” She overheard the doctors talking to her mother about the need for more time at the hospital. The doctor said, “It’s just another mountain to climb.” So Megan is drawing what the mountain must look like. It’s a tall, brown mountain with a little bit of green grass and many jagged rocks. “I’m too tired to keep climbing mountains,” she says softly, while working on the drawing.

Jenny reaches for a few crayons, and without permission or invitation, begins to draw on Megan’s picture. As she draws, Jenny assures Megan the mountain is not that tall, and they will both climb it together; they just need a guide. As she says this, Jenny points at the images she has added to Megan’s drawing and they laugh. Later, the drawing is left on the table as the girls walk with their parents back to their hospital beds.

Curious, I walk toward the drawing. There is a mountain. At the foot of the mountain are five sheep eating grass. Not far from these are two pink sheep looking up toward the mountain, each one has a name: Jenny, Megan. In the middle of the small herd is a man pointing toward the same mountain, wearing a tunic that reminds me of pictures in the Children’s Illustrated Bible. He is holding a rod:the shepherd. Jenny’s addition to the picture: guidance ahead. Two little pink sheep are about to climb a mountain together with the Shepherd.

Jenny knew that she could sit next to her friend, share the same space, color together, and by those inspired transformative actions remind Megan the journey ahead already had a plotted path. A little girl, reminding her friend, reminding me, and everyone who saw the drawing that when there is a question about our strength to climb ahead, the Shepherd will carry us through the mountainous terrain.

Dixil Rodríguez, a university professor and volunteer hospital chaplain, lives in Texas.