Katie suppressed the waver in her voice and swiped at the drip down her face, not sure if it was sweat or a tear. When she finally pushed the words out she almost jumped at their loudness. “My name is Katie. I’m an alcoholic.”
“Hello, Katie.” The familiar response rang foreign when attached to her name. But the warmth was real so she continued with her boring story. Scrawny kid, divorced struggling parents, few friends, fell in with the wrong teenage crowd, first sip at age thirteen, bolstered courage, lies and cheating, full blown addiction by age twenty. No education or stable job now, at 24 years old.
After stumbling through her recitation, Katie slunk to her chair and tried to disappear. She felt more empty than relieved. But when a modest looking thirty something woman approached her after the meeting Katie’s spirit inexplicably improved. Ann’s voice was so quiet Katie had to strain to hear her, but it helped her focus on Ann’s words. The offer of sponsorship should not have been a surprise, but Katie was nevertheless touched by this woman’s humility, and readily accepted Ann’s cell phone number.
Katie appreciated Ann’s encouraging words: “one day at a time;” “call me night or day;” “I’m here for you.”
But she could not resist the stronger encouragement from her friends: “come to the bar with us, Katie. We miss you. It will be fun.” Her friends’ pleadings won, and also contributed to her current residency in the addiction unit of St. Barnabas Community Hospital.
Bitter and bored, Katie lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. She heard the door open but did not move.
“Hi Sweetie. Isn’t it a beautiful day the Lord made this morning? No need to move. I’m just here to tidy up a bit.” The housekeeper continued to spread her cheer as she spread her mop around in circles on the dull green tiled floor. Her speed and deftness defied the wrinkles on her face and her stooped posture.
“I was getting up anyway. I’m leaving this morning.”
“You get discharged already? I thought you just been here a couple of days.”
“I don’t like it here. Nothing is going to help me anyway.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge that sweetie. The staff here are all real helpful.”
“They seem nice enough. But I’m tired of everyone’s encouraging words. I’ve heard them all.”
“It’s not the words, honey. It’s what’s inside the words you have to listen to.”
Katie fingered the tract on her nightstand, left there earlier this morning by a volunteer chaplain while Katie was pretending to be asleep. With a fresh spark of interest, she read the cover:
EnCOURAGEment to Go Beyond:
On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
“So what do you think this means?” Katie slid the tract over to the housekeeper.
“It means you look to God for strength. He’s our encourager, and gives us the courage inside to go on day by day and do the right thing. But you gotta ask Him.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“Yes, I do child.” The housekeeper paused for a minute, then reached her hand toward Katie. “You want to pray with me about that?”
Katie stared at the housekeeper, then slowly nodded. She took the housekeeper’s hand, and they bowed their heads together.
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