Monday, June 17, 2019

Part 2: Scott's Story

Hi, I’m Scott. I work over at the PennState Medical Center in Hershey. I’ve been working there for about three years now in the Infectious Disease Department. Something intriguing happened last week.

See, there’s a fellow doc down in Pathology that I’ve gotten to know over the last 9 months or so. We end up rubbing shoulders a lot when I go to drop off or discuss lab results with him. His name is Dr. Miller; turns out we have a lot in common. We are about the same age, we have kids in the same school, we both like the Green Bay Packers, and ironically we both spent some time in San Jose when we were younger. So we’ve sort of hit it off.

The thing about Miller is he asks really good questions. Most docs I interact with seem to want to keep their personal lives separate, or they just talk shop or surface level stuff, but Miller almost always slows down and asks me about my weekend or our last trip, or if I tell him my kids are sick or something he’ll always remember to ask about them. Most of my colleagues just don’t do that.

And so last week Miller invited me and my family to come over for dinner one night. This sounds like a simple thing, but it took me by surprise because I can’t think of a single time when a coworker invited me over. Hospitality is not normal around here for some reason. So I told him “sure, that’d be great!” My wife and I moved something around in our calendar and he gave us the address.

Our family loaded up in the SUV Friday and headed over. But when pulled into their driveway I was a bit taken back. It wasn’t a ratty house or anything, it just wasn’t the house I was expecting to pull up to. It was in a good neighborhood, but not a great neighborhood, you know what I mean? Most docs at our hospital live in Highland Park or by the river, they have huge houses with patios and three car garages and play places out back if they have kids; but Miller had a simple house, little small, not much of a yard. Even his car looked older; I think it was a Mazda or something. I actually pulled up his text messages on my phone and started checking the address to make sure I got it right.

About the time I found that text he came out the front door and waved “Hey guys! Welcome!” As I walked into the house I was blown away at how simplistic everything was. Don’t get me wrong, they had a nice home and certainly weren’t living in poverty, but it wasn’t ostentatious. Possessions didn’t have a grip on him. In fact, besides his family and friends, nothing seemed to have a grip on him. His job, his house, his possession; he didn’t really speak of these things as though they were the most important thing for him. I left wishing I had more purpose in my life than work and keeping my kids fed.

When supper was ready, we all sat down, and one of their kids said, “Can I pray tonight?” That was first for me too; I’ve never seen a kid volunteer to say grace. It was a good prayer too, especially for a 7 year old. Not sure if I could have done that good of a job!

After we finished eating supper our wives ran off into the kitchen and started chatting, and the kids ran outside to throw a football around. So I asked Miller, “You a church-going fellow?”

He responded, “Yeah, we’ve been going to First Community Church since we moved here eight years ago. And over the years we’ve gotten pretty involved there. Becca serves in the food bank and I serve on the deacon committee. We like it there. How about you guys?”

“No, not really,” I said. “My grandparents are super religious though. And I my folks attend church every now and then. I believe in a higher power, I just don’t feel drawn to go to a worship service every Sunday to connect with him – or her, or it, whatever’s up there. What I’m saying is I’m not a fan of organized religion.”

Then Miller piped in. “Well our church may be the most disorganized religion you’ve ever seen! We have made a lot of really good friends there though.” I was intrigued. Good friends… Hmmm, that sounds like a good thing to have. I asked him to talk more on that.

So Miller went on and on about his friendships from his church. About how a bunch of families through a party when his middle kid was baptized to celebrate, and how all these people brought him meals for weeks after his sister passed away, and how his ‘small group’ – whatever that is – took care of his wife when she went through postpartum with their youngest. You know, I just can’t stop thinking about that.

I have friends, don’t get me wrong. But not friends like that. I guess I have buddies. And Suzanne has girl-friends that shop with her. But when we go through tough stuff we don’t have friends that help us through. We either deal with it or call family. But what intrigued me is that Miller spoke of his church friends in the same way I think of family. It’s as if the people at his church are… family.

That was about all. From there we talked about politics, and family, and stuff like that. Real nice guy. I’m glad he invited us. As we were leaving his wife told us that they were having some friends over for burgers in two weeks and invited us back. Now if you know anything about me, you know this: I’m a grill-guy. I didn’t even have to look at my calendar – “We’ll be here!”

“Great!” she said. “We’re having some couples over from our Small Group, they’d be thrilled to meet you and your kids will jump in fine.” I have no idea what a ‘small group’ is, but there are burgers involved, so I told them we’d be there. Suzanne smiles and replied “Great! See you then!”

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