Close to the Brokehearted

by May 22, 2024Encouragement, Special Needs Parenting0 comments

Guest blogger Karen Wright explains how the phrase "I'd like to buy you coffee" has been her go-to for initiating friendship.

Being close to the brokenhearted meant initiating friendship with another special needs mom over coffee for guest blogger Karen Wright. In today’s post she tells the story of confidences shared in a children’s hospital cafeteria, hugs given, and compassion in action that will make you weep and smile simultaneously.

“I’d like to buy your coffee and breakfast today,” I told her. “Please, order whatever you want on me.”  We were waiting in line at the children’s hospital cafeteria, her wearing a lanyard reading, “Parent of Surgery Child,” and my son and I each wearing “Pediatrics Genetics Clinic” bracelets. “No, no, that’s OK, but thank you,” she shyly said, but through tears I blurted, “Yes, you must let me. I’m having a really, really bad morning, and this will make me feel better. Please.”  She must’ve detected the urgency in my spirit, for she submitted, ordering a modest drip coffee on my ticket. We shifted forward toward the payment counter, waiting behind solemn families with wiggly children.

There are, of course, other ways to initiate making new friends, but the “I’m having a horrible day, and I’d like to buy your coffee” approach is probably foolproof. In a matter of minutes, I knew her family’s story, and she knew mine. A cross tattoo peeked out from the cuff of her slept-in sweatshirt, and I knew I’d found a fellow sojourner, both in parenting and in Christ. She admired my son’s beautiful blue eyes and dimples and overlooked his obvious, atypical physical characteristics.

Today was her son’s cancer surgery, and they expected him to recover fast and respond well to chemotherapy. If all went according to plan, they would return to their home, two states away, in six weeks. And while their time in the hospital should be finite, she wasn’t sure how they’d ever feel normal again. Then we discussed my son’s genetic diagnosis. Minutes prior, doctors told me he would never develop normally, and we should prepare for a permanent season of caregiving. Refreshingly, she did not offer platitudes but was a warm, attentive listener.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
    he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

Our conversation quickened as we acknowledged our shared faith and contended our sufferings had purpose.  We agreed: while probably not at once and perhaps not in our lifetimes, eventually all would be redeemed. In times like these, we affirmed God’s desire for us to cling to him, but when we are so weak from worry and caregiving, how is this possible?

A beautiful, succinct cluster of three verses found in 1 Thessalonians offers a tactical road map for this process:

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 (NIV)

  1. “Rejoice always” reminds us to celebrate the Lord’s presence and sovereignty, even amidst excruciating circumstances.  Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV) assures us, “the joy of the Lord is your strength,” meaning there are benefits to rejoicing, even when we are weary. My new friend got her cross tattoo after her son’s cancer diagnosis.  I offered to buy her coffee after my son’s genetic diagnosis.  Different choices, but both pursued joy in exchange for strength.
  2. “Pray continually” is tricky, because we may feel weary and ineloquent, or perhaps hopelessness hinders our prayers.  But take heart, for when this happens, the word assures us, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).  Whether eloquent, exasperated, or exhausted, the Lord asks we persist in prayer, and the Spirit will help us when we get stuck.
  3. “Give thanks in all circumstances” is the final instruction, and for me, often the most challenging.  When we are heartbroken, it is difficult to be grateful for anything.  But   Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV) promises when you are thankful, “the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  This day in the hospital, I was thankful to finally know the cause of my son’s excruciating health issues.  And I was thankful I could treat a stranger to coffee.  I would’ve much rather been thankful for shinier circumstances, but in either case, the peace that passes understanding is a pretty good trade.   

As the line shifted forward, my new friend and I exhaled, grabbed hands, and hugged. I complimented her strength; she admired my steadfastness.  When we finally arrived at the payment counter, I took out my credit card to settle the bill. Before I could insert it into the machine, the young barista put her hand on mine and gently said, “We covered your coffees today.”  She peered over her shoulder motioning toward her coworkers and whispered, “Everyone here pitched in. You two are carrying enough burdens of your own.” My friend and I exchanged a quick glance at each other, took deep breaths and expressed our gratitude to the staff.

After a tearful hug, we said goodbye and went separate directions, her over to the surgery waiting area, and me up an elevator to meet a genetic counselor. Even though I didn’t get to buy her coffee, I did feel better. I sipped mine and smiled, recognizing the significance of this moment. Truly the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

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Photo by Oriol Pascual on Unsplash

By Karen Wright

Karen Wright is an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Dallas Baptist University. She holds a Ph.D. in educational administration and previously served as a classroom teacher and campus administrator in public schools in the Dallas area and as a Division Head at The Bear Creek School in Washington State.  She and her husband have three children, the youngest of whom has severe intellectual disabilities and autism.


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Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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