If you live in the American South like I do, this time of year is a boon for the honeysuckle. As a kid, I gravitated to a bush in my family’s backyard, where I managed to redeem only the slightest juice out of the stem. That’s the way it is, you know: a lot of effort for a little return. But if the sweet taste were all there was, we would banish the honeysuckle to the pile, along with other useless objects like twigs, and roaches. The sight and smell of the honeysuckle make the flower more worthwhile.
The other day I took some emotional time out on one of the floors. It was a particularly rough afternoon, with one of my patients writhing in pain and a nurse whose hands were tied because she wasn’t authorized yet to administer more pain medications. The patient’s friend begged the nurse: “Can’t you DO something?”
Each main floor of the hospital has a window on the end, with comfortable chairs facing a TV set. They resemble living rooms. Sometimes family members decompress in these areas, or give patients privacy if a procedure is being performed. It was in one of these places where I glanced down at the street level, and spotted a girl, maybe 10 years old, plucking from a honeysuckle bush. The bush faces a sidewalk that abuts a fairly busy street. The child seemed determined. No matter the number of speeding cars cruising by her, or the slight raindrops that began to fall, she descended on those thistles like a moth to flame. She seemed happily oblivious to her surroundings.
For a few moments, it was utter joy to watch her joy, providing me a gentle reminder that sweetness sometimes comes in the most unexpected times and unexpected places.