When I was in high school, the cheerleaders were the most popular girls in our class. They were the attractive girls that dated the quarterback and the wide receivers. They inspired us at weekly pep rallies before the Friday night games. I have never really thought of cheerleaders out of that context. That changed today.
Today, I went to visit a young lady in her early 20’s at the hospital. She is critically ill following a tragic accident. She was a cheerleader at our local high school several years ago. She was in school with two of my boys. She participated in youth group activities at church during that time period. But today, things are very different.
Not long after I arrived one of the current cheerleaders from the same high school showed up with a bouquet of flowers arranged in school colors. She was eager to present the flowers and expressed a desire to pray for the young woman that led cheers just like her a few years ago…She just struck me as a genuinely sweet girl.
Visiting the seriously ill is an integral part of my job. It’s not a task to be taken carelessly. Being in a hospital room with a patient and their loved ones is equivalent to standing on sacred ground. It’s a time to hug. And it’s a time to hush. It’s certainly a time to listen carefully. Offering extensive commentary is unnecessary and destructive. And when we are find ourselves at a loss for words, perhaps we are normal….
So…back to the cheerleader that came to visit. She had the best of intentions. But I don’t think she was prepared to pray with someone that ill. The experience is not what you see on television. It’s the real world. How could she not be somewhat shocked? Thankfully such encounters are not all that common to most 16 year old’s. She teared up and said: “I don’t know what to say…” The sincerity of her tender heart touched me to the very core of my being.
If the truth be known, nobody knows what to say in such circumstances. But unfortunately many will start offering some kind of rambling commentary sprinkled with references to leaning on God. The damage done by unnecessary words is indescribable. And of course we want to shed some tears, but the desire to be strong trumps the emotion that wells up in us.
The cheerleader that chose to step away from the comfort of the pep rally and step into the uncharted territory of a palliative care hospital room is my hero. She intuitively understood the gravity of the situation and responded accordingly. The sincerity of her heart revealed by her honest words and heartfelt tears inspired me. She honestly admitted being at a loss for words. Honesty and humility are a good combination when it comes to serving the needs of others. I don’t know what she has in mind for the future, but I am behind her. I am confident that she will do something substantive with her life. I was inspired by a cheerleader today, but it wasn’t at a pep rally…