Even though I was wearing my Roman collar, I knew it was going to happen. I could not but be hit on in the waiting room of the Infectious Disease Unit of Memorial Hospital (South of Exit 50).
I was surely looking very much alone. “Soooo, what are you here for?” asked one very flirtatious gentleman. Imagine, picking someone up in an Infectious Disease Unit! Pretty much everyone there was looking druggie or gay. Sorry. I could be wrong. But appearances are what they are.
I could have avoided that by staying in the car for an hour. I could have avoided the scandal of a priest going in to the Infectious Disease Unit, because, you know, people who go in there are surely shooting up drugs with just-used-needles or are having lots of illicit sex or are otherwise just yucky people, right?
But, no, Father Byers was determined to accompany the underdog, to know the smell of the sheep, to share the stigma of going into such a place where people charitably receive treatment for their ailments. I was accompanying someone who had an infectious disease, as is my practice, it being that the elderly poor in my parish who are without family and without transportation cannot otherwise go to such far flung appointments hours away.
The gentleman, meanwhile, was then distracted back at the receptionist’s window, but then came right back to me, offering me lunch, seeing that I had been there for quite some time. I refused that and he went back to the receptionist.
But then he came back again asking if I were here with my “brother”, you know, my presumed gay sex partner (the brother thing taking drugs out of consideration). By that time, the person who I was taking there appeared at the receptionist and I simply pointed to her, an elderly woman suffering the effects of her having caught something decades ago with the special ed special cases children she taught. They were always getting scrapes and cuts and, because they had their own medical problems, the teachers were supposed to wear gloves while teaching. It’s easy to catch something because sooner or later you’ll have a scrape or cut as well. Blood is blood.
The gentleman said, “Oh.” And then he left.
Should Father Byers have been prudent and not gone in to the Infectious Disease Unit for God and the whole world to see? I wonder if Jesus asked that question when coming into this world, wondering if it was imprudent to walk among those He knew would torture Him to death.
Anyway, it is also easy to be proud of being with the underdog. Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.