It was Christmas Eve. I had dreamed of that day almost all year, so often anticipating this morning's light, always different from other mornings. However, this year I will spend all day and night working at the hospital. I felt an enormous sadness and found it difficult to gather the strength to get out of the house.
When I arrived at the Emergency Room, I found a crowd in the waiting room. The rush lasted all day. I multiplied myself in countless tasks, trying to respond to the multiple requests arising from everywhere. And by the end of the afternoon, I was exhausted…
I felt tiredness take over me, invaded by a huge sadness. It was then that I saw, at the end of the corridor, lying on a stretcher, a patient with white hair and a sad look. She was a very old patient with a respiratory infection Her family had left her there, abandoned and inaccessible, for the night. I approached her and was moved by her pain and her weakness. I took her hand, with emotion, and stood looking at her, stroking her hair, bowed to the mystery of her life. I thought about her story, about the sacrifices she had occasionally made on nights like this so that her children would always have Christmas. In her fragility and poverty I saw her immense dignity, solemn and majestic, wrapped in cloth and lying in little more than a manger. And there I stayed, I'm not sure for how long…
It was nearly midnight when I got her to be taken to a room in the infirmary. She didn't want her to spend Christmas alone, in a hallway, on a stretcher. In that room, there was a young woman, without a family, recovering from a pulmonary problem. I said goodbye to her:
- Goodnight; it's almost Christmas!
- I do not care! – she replied – Nothing matters anymore. I don't know if I want to live longer.
I felt the motherly eyes of the old woman who had arrived open in astonishment and turn to the young woman. I left the room and slowly leaned against the door, feeling the light of care and the deeper humanity of two women who, one Christmas Eve, met in a hospital room.
It was almost midnight when I passed that door again. The conversation from that meeting was still heard. An exchange of stories that came to life where nothing else seemed to exist… As I walked away, at the end of the corridor, I heard someone laugh… That young woman, hopeless about everything, shared the Christmas dinner food with the elderly woman, and both laughed at its poor quality.
- “Next year, you have to come to my house. I make excellent rabanadas!”
- “It's agreed. I'll take my sweet vermicelli. I haven't done it for years… There was no one to do it for!”
- "But now there is", said the young woman
- "Yea. It is true." And she took a long pause. “I know we just met, but can I ask you something?”
I imagined a nod in response.
- “Even if, next year, I'm no longer here, make those rabanadas and when you eat them, remember me. I was lost and found tonight. I wish I could do something similar for you”.
That day I treated many people, I saw many sick people, but nothing was as special as that meeting.
My night was over. It was Christmas Day. And when I left the hospital, I just saw the very special light of that Christmas morning.
At the exit of the hospital there was a very simple nativity scene: a moss carpet placed on the floor, with very large images of Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus, inside a wooden hut. I stopped for a moment and, for the first time in my life, I felt I had a gift to leave there, wrapped in red ribbon: I left the simplicity of my twenty-four hours of work... It was all I had to give.