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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)

TITLE: The Seventh Room
By david grant


Don’t visit a nursing home to find fulfillment. Lena taught me that.

It all began innocently enough. The church was going to visit Fairlawn, so I went too. With an accordion strapped to my shoulders , a smile plastered on my face, and a straw doll of kindness propped up in my heart, I began the night confident I could “minister” and make a difference. I think I did ok in the first six rooms.

I held feeble hands, read The 23rd Psalm aloud and prayed “Our Father” more than a dozen times. I got to listen to a lot of unintelligible rambling, and in reaction to some of the smells I got to re-swallow my dinner more than twice. I also played Amazing Grace standing in yellow puddles, and saw death up close for the very first time. I pushed through the first six rooms a little dazed but thinking I was getting the hang of it.

Then I walked into the seventh room. This was Lena’s room. It said so on the door. At first I wanted to run away but was something kept me from backing out. I approached her bed cautiously.

“Hi. How are you?”

Lena was all bones covered by parchment paper thin skin. She was an x-ray with short thin white hair laying without a blanket in a stale hospital bed. I feared her, and pitied her, but couldn’t take my eyes off her.

She didn’t speak. When she heard my voice Lena opened her wide black eyes to an incredible size. Her mouth shaped itself in to an “O” and then she scrunched up her face into an incredible look of pain . Slowly she pushed her chin up and pulled her head back and wailed a desperate cry from the depths of her soul. I’d never heard anything so pathetic and frightening in my life. I had no reply.

Lena was obviously blind but she knew where I was and stared in to the air in my direction. Turning back to me she reached out. This brought her up out of the bed just enough to expose too much of what was under her thin blue nightgown. I blushed and turned my head. Then she relaxed and lay still again.

I moved closer and took her hand. Afraid I might break or bruise her I laid the fragile appendage across my palm. In return she squeezed and dug in her fingers nails. I didn’t admit pain. Instead I offered to pray for her. She didn’t respond but I prayed anyway.

“Lord, Lena needs you more than anyone else I’ve ever met. Will you walk past the blindness and show yourself to her?”

When I opened my eyes she was staring at me again. I quickly said amen and hurried to the next room.

I continued playing, praying, and ministering through several more rooms, even shared the sinner’s prayer with an old man, and then the night ended and we all went home.

Later that night in my living room I stretched out on the floor, put my hands behind my head, and thanked the Lord. For a moment I felt fulfilled.

“Ahh,” I said in a sigh, “I have done everything you asked me to do today. Thank you for using me, Lord.”

The feeling lasted only a minute, then I heard Lena’s howl again, and all the satisfaction drained away. I tried to shake it off and went to bed. Lena appeared in every dream, wailing, reaching out, calling me.

I went back to Fairlawn the next evening by myself and only visited Lena. She greeted me in the same frightening way, but I was ready for her. I prayed sooner than I could get offended, and read her the Word. The visit lasted only 10 minutes, but the time was significant and meaningful.

I was a regular at Fairlawn for a few more months. My visits with Lena really didn’t get that much better or longer, but I became better with others because of her. Lena tore up my straw doll and challenged me to be real. I dropped by two and three times a week. Sometimes I did six rooms, sometimes only Lena‘s, but I knew my mission and ministered to and for the people living at Fairlawn, not for myself.

God’s love will never let you back way from needs or allow you to rest in fulfillment. Lena taught me this, and I’ll never forget her for it.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 04/14/06
A beautiful, wonderful tribute to the topic of fulfillment! I loved the idea of a "straw doll" type heart. Nicely written...and if true, you deserve a Crown with many stars. God Bless.
Debora Dyess04/14/06
What an incredibly beautiful story. My children, all youths now, visit a nursing home in our area as part of a ministry project witho our church (Don't you just hate the term 'ministry project'?) With your permission I'd like to give a copy of this story to our youth minister to share with the group. Thank you for touching my heart.
Jan Ackerson 04/14/06
This is masterfully written, with some very compelling phrases...I loved it! I wonder if you'd consider ending it with "...and visited only Lena." After that, the sparkle fizzles a bit, and I think it's wise to allow your reader to draw a few conclusions. Your way with words is unmistakable, and this story is a real blessing.
terri tiffany04/14/06
YOu shared with us a real picture of the need in nursing homes... I was a social worker for awhile in one and could see my own Lena. Very compelling story.
Shannon Redmon04/15/06
My grandmother lived in a nursing home and my mom and aunt went everyday to care for her. During my visits I met some Lena's, usually no visitors would ever come. I'm sure Lena looked forward to you coming! Powerful story!
Helen Paynter04/15/06
Really powerful writing. Great stuff
Linda Germain 04/15/06
This really struck a chord with me. I worked in a nursing home for a short time in the early years of my career. Holidays and Sundays were prime for well meaning groups to come with their "straw hearts" , read a few words, sing a song and then leave. It sounds horrible to say, but most of us HATED those well-meaning visits.
Where were they when 3 of us had to feed 12 helpless ones or spend valuable time chasing after confused or destructive patients who would have been easily quieted with a one-on-one story or song or walk...even a hair brushing. Group after weary group traipsing in and out at Christmas to sing one more "Deck the Halls" and then leave, feeling FULFILLED because they came to our smelly place for ten minutes, was a powerful message to a very young woman with more work to do than one shift could hold. THANKS for this wonderful eye-opening story! Excellent.

(I love the "straw-heart" image)
Sharon Singley04/16/06
Beautiful, convicting and humbling. I don't know if any other thing that I've read so far could describe better the word 'fulfillment'. It is true Christianity.
Crista Darr04/17/06
I agree that this is an excellent piece. I love the message. I love your openness with your own struggles. Please, proof-read your work. Make it perfect! Your writing style is fantastic!!
Beth Muehlhausen04/17/06
Favorite line: "Lena tore up my straw doll and challenged me to be real." This is the bottom line, isn't it?!?!
Pat Guy 04/19/06
A reality we don't want to face - so we don't, but your story and excellent writing take us 'there.' Poignant.