The 5th floor of Mott childrens’ hospital in Ann Arbor houses the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).  No matter what time of day or week or month or year you go there, it’s always pretty much the same.  Quiet.  The small waiting room and hallway leading to the actual NICU are filled with small clumps of people, huddled together in every corner.  The area smells somewhat less like a hospital than the rest of the gigantic building, and more like a family reunion.  In some groups, there are pictures being passed back and forth, in some, there are boxes of tissues.  Some arms are wrapped around others, keeping others close, and some are folded and kept closed off from others.  There are some tears, there are some laughs.  Coffee and gum and stale peanuts are in most hands or mouths.

What is strange about the waiting room of the NICU is also what is really incredible about it.  Everyone in the waiting room of the 5th floor at Mott knows that there’s tragedy if they’re in that waiting room.  You don’t go there for fun.  You go because there’s a problem.  A big problem.  But isn’t it strange that even in the midst of tragedy, people tend to cling together?  They share.  Or cry.  Or pray.  Or nervously drink bad coffee without noticing that it’s been brewing for 8 hours.  There’s something about tragedy that draws people together.

I wonder if Jesus knew when he was walking around here on earth that the 5th floor waiting room was going to be a place of unreal community.  Or that tragedy was an automatic way for people to let down their guard and open their hearts.  But then again, Jesus had a few of those, himself, didn’t he?  The well with that lady.  The little girl.  Lazarus.  Maybe Jesus knows all about tragedy.  And maybe he hangs out in the 5th floor waiting room.  Thoughts?

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