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The teacher is always silent during the test

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An Ursuline sister who was one of my early teachers said of God, “Remember the teacher is always silent during the test.”

One year ago, my wife slipped and broke her femur. Complicating the matter: We were in Indianapolis. When you have a medical emergency in a strange city, you might as well be an ocean away from home. I said my prayers, but wondered where God was when my wife was suffering. A broken femur is nasty.

We ended up in University of Indiana Methodist Hospital, and she received excellent care. Bless the people who labor in hospitals.

I saw the teenager in pre-op as we waited for Linda to be wheeled into surgery. He sat upright on the gurney, his head wrapped in bloody gauze. He was on oxygen and looked like death. Later in the post-op waiting room, I saw a large family group. There was a matriarch, and from eavesdropping – it’s OK; I’m a reporter – I came to understand that the people with her were sons, daughters-in-law, younger children, and even a grandchild. There was also a tall, skinny dingy person who was clearly not related.

There were a lot of loud cell phone calls, and after a bit, a uniformed officer and a plain-clothes detective introduced themselves to the family. Apparently, their youngest brother, who had been living on the streets, had gotten into a fight with another homeless man over his place on “the grates,” iron coverings over steam lines that ran under downtown streets and buildings. This was prize territory. The high temps that week had been around 10-15 degrees. A knife was involved and the teenager was partially scalped.

They briefly questioned the odd man, “Denny,” who had come to the victim’s aid when a dew rag and stocking cap did not stem the bleeding. He walked the teenager home where momma took over and got him to the ER.

The detective told the family they were charging the assailant with attempted murder and that he hoped they understood the police would question the teen when he came out of surgery. Thirty minutes later, a surgeon came out and, predicting a slow, painful recovery with much scarring, told the family their son would survive. They would not be able to see him for many hours.

One brother had to go back to work, as did one sister-in-law. The mother, clearly the general of this little army, turned to Denny and said gruffly, “Denny, are you hungry? You can come eat with us.”

Denny mumbled something about not being clean and not having any money. Momma barked, “Boy, I don’t offer but once. If I offer, I pay, and I’ll take you home after, let you clean up, and wash your clothes, and give you a warm place to sleep tonight. It’s what I do, and it’s what Jesus expects of me.”

And with that, they all left, Denny in tow. In my head I heard, “I was a stranger and you gave me shelter…” You know Matthew 25.

We spent five days at IU Methodist. I slept on a cot alongside my wife’s bed. I ate in the hospital cafeteria and in the café that stayed open late for staff.

The first evening I was in the café, the man at the cash register asked, “Are you related to a patient?”

I explained our situation and he offered his best wishes and prayers for Linda’s speedy recovery. Gene was there each evening, and each evening, he asked how my wife was doing and, “are you
taking care of yourself?”

And I heard “Blessed are they who mourn …” (Matthew 5:4). Then I realized where God was: Monitoring the test.

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