Last night I was doing my volunteer shift at the United Way’s free health clinic, and I was feeling a little out of place. The people in charge are mostly retired people, as are the volunteer doctors. But the interpreters were mostly BYU students in their early twenties who are trying to add something to their resumes before applying to medical school. There were two eighteen-year-old LDS girls helping out, and they went up to every young guy and asked the same question, “Are you married?” followed by a slew of get-to-know-you questions. All the boys’ majors sounded “exciting,” and their missions “wow.” Eventually, they got to me, and I suppose they asked simply because they didn’t want it to seem too obvious that they were hitting on the guys.
“Yes, I’m married,” I said, feeling a little stupid.
“Oh, yeah, sure,” said one of the girls. “If you weren’t married at your age, you’d be like a total LOSER.”
“TOTAL loser,” the other girl agreed.
The young guys all stood there looking a little embarrassed until one said, “Hey, have you seen the picture I have of my seven-week-old baby?”
It’s always interesting talking to these college students. It’s a little weird knowing that they were born during or after my mission, but I’m OK being the old dude in the room.
Of course, all I have to do to feel younger is talk to the older doctors and administrators. One of the volunteer doctors last night was my branch president in the MTC. Back then he had red hair, but now his hair is white. He stood up close to me and took his glasses off, staring into my eyes.
“Look at the eyes,” he said. “Back when you knew me, they were bright green. They turned blue when the hair turned white.” He was right. His eyes, which I had remembered as a bright emerald, were now a pale blue. He, being a Spanish speaker, didn’t need an interpreter, but the pharmacist was having a hard time, so I told people about pills and creams and follow-up appointments. And it felt good to do something worthwhile.
An elderly Mexican man came up to me as the crowd was thinning out and said, in a very quiet Spanish, “Excuse me, but my wife and I got here first in line, and it looks like we’re going to be the last ones seen.” I had to apologize and tell him that they served people by prioritizing them by symptoms. Those with the more serious problems were seen first.
“Hay que tener paciencia,” he smiled. Sure enough, they were seen last. They had been there four hours.
I went home tired last night, but at least I knew I had done some good.
And I knew that, with my beautiful wife, I’m not a loser.