‘The Parable of the Trick-or-Treat Woman’

Justin Lockamy Contributing columnist

November 6, 2013

Dear Readers: Today I offer you the following true story for your contemplation.

There was a woman whose husband fell into a coma, and the chances for his recovery were uncertain. The woman took up residence at the hospital to attend to her husband. She made sure that his body was occasionally repositioned to avoid bed sores and to keep him comfortable.

Friends, family, and co-workers attempted to keep the woman comfortable, too. They sent fruit, candy, and snacks to keep her energy up, and they provided her with some money so that she could stay in a hotel and avoid the long commute between her home and the hospital. And though she appreciated the gifts, they did little to address the hurt in her heart.

The days marched on, and her husband showed no neurological improvement. The troubled woman spent all day in a hospital crowded by equally troubled people who were concerned about their loved ones’ health. And to devout Christians, the woman wouldn’t have seemed to have a well of faith on which to draw, as she’d only attended church for weddings or funerals in the past thirty years. She had little recourse to soften her growing despair.

Then came Halloween.

Exhausted by her inability to change her situation, and loaded with more fruit, snacks, and candy that she could reasonably eat, she walked up the hospital corridors to go trick-or-treating. Instead of asking for treats, though, she gave them out. She brightened the days of strangers by offering them her surplus, and in the process, she unburdened herself of more than the candy. She unburdened herself of grief.

In this way, the woman stumbled onto a universal truth: you get as good as you give. If you want prosperity, you must first give out of recognition of your own abundance. If you want others to be a friend to you, you must first be a friend to them. If you want to be healed, you must first offer healing to others.

The woman worked a miracle that day by transforming the gifts of others. The gifts as given to her before Halloween were only ever capable of being bandages to dress her wounded heart. The gifts as she gave them to others on Halloween became instead a balm to provide her and others true healing. Whether conscious of it or not, the woman strongly followed Christ’s example, perhaps even more so than some similarly situated lifelong churchgoers would have.

And that, dear Readers, is how last week my mother began to turn frowns into smiles, strangers into friends, and grief into healing at the Wake Med Critical Care Waiting Room.