The Waiting Room

As a kid I can remember being terrified of hospitals. Though it was not that often, I can recall the uneasy feeling I would get whenever going to the hospital for a friend or family member. When I think about these trips the thing that I disliked the most was having to sit in the waiting room. Though my overall fear of hospitals has subsided since starting my clinical experiences through Gonzaga, I think that the waiting room will always be a place that will make me feel uneasy, due to the nature of a hospital waiting room. Making people sit in the discomfort of their situation. Whether it is the discomfort of physical or emotional pain, fear of the unknown, or the frustration of unanswered questions, the waiting room forces you to sit there and be uncomfortable.

We are just about to enter into our third week of being in Zambezi and after giving it some thought; I think that I am stuck in the waiting room. And how I got here did not take much effort. One night I simply asked myself, “What is my role here in Zambezi” and bam, I checked in, was told the doctor would be right with me and to please take a seat.

Before coming to Zambia I felt like this question had a clear-cut answer. Our goal was accompaniment—to work alongside the Zambezi community, making deep and real friendships through the process. This turned out to be a lot more complicated than I thought it was going to be. We often talk about how the days are long, but the weeks are short here and it is crazy to think that we only have a week left here in Zambezi. I started to feel like I was running out of time and this question that lingered was still yet to be fully answered. And from this one question even more complicated questions started to pop up. I wondered if, with this short of time, would I actually be able to accomplish the practice of accompaniment? Is our short time here doing more harm than good when children skip school to stand outside the convent gates, hoping that the chindeles will come out to play? Are we taking more than we are giving when the health team travels to rural communities outside of Zambezi and teach for an hour and in return receive food and gifts that are valuable resources for the village? How do we decide which girls will receive one of the limited period kits that we have to help them stay in school from those who will not? And now that I have experienced what I have experienced, what am I going to do when I get back home?

Sitting in unanswered questions for the passed couple of days lead me to become frustrated. Sitting in the discomfort of being celebrated wherever we go, receiving gifts and hospitality that felt undeserved, and feeling like a burden in the passed couple of days lead me to become frustrated. This experience has brought me back to a hospital waiting room where all I wanted was answers so that I could stop feeling uncomfortable. For a while this frustration made me think that it would have been best to never ask or think about these questions because the answers would never come. But one night as our group was talking about what questions we are asking and what was making us uncomfortable Morgan Green brought up a concept that I was not able to see because of my frustration. She said, “What if the whole point is to sit in the discomfort”. I had never considered that sitting in the discomfort would ever be the solution to my problem. But the more I thought about it the idea started to make feel a sense of release. I think that I had placed this pressure on myself to have everything figured out, to work hard to find the answers to these questions and to find a way to be comfortable with the things that were bringing me discomfort. But maybe I am coming to think that maybe part of this experience might be about learning it sit in the discomfort that comes with asking the hard questions.

The challenging part of learning to sit in the discomfort, except for the obvious, is finding peace while waiting. We have a book of prayers and blessings in the convent and I came upon this blessing the other day.

“Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still calm your heart”.

I am coming to see that many of the questions I have many not be answered by the time that I leave Zambezi and in fact might be ones that I am still sorting through weeks, months, or years from now. So I guess you could say that I am going to be in the waiting room for the long haul, sitting in the discomfort. But I am trying to be ok with that and focusing on what can bring me peace while I’m there. I find peace in that my fellow Zam Fam is here with me and all are in the waiting room to some capacity. Reflecting with them helps me to move closer to resolutions while also challenging me to ask even more questions. I find peace in the sewing classes the health team has, empowering women to make period kits of their own. I find peace in my friend Hendrix who has a passion to help his community to become a prosperous place to live. I find peace in the Sunday Mass choir who worship in both song and dance. I find peace in the walk our group takes every evening to watch the sunset over the river with what feels like a hundred Zambezi children.

And as my time here in Zambia starts to come to an end I know that the discomfort is far from over. I know that I will continue to ask questions and be put into situations that make me uncomfortable, but I am starting to be ok with that. I am trying to give myself some grace in this experience and search for where I can find peace instead of searching for immediate answers. I will let the doctor get back to me when the time is right. In the mean time I’ll learn to appreciate the process and continue to look for how Zambezi can calm, but also fill my heart.

Kisu Mwane

Caroline May (Class of 2018)

PS – Momma May and Dad thank you so much for everything. I love and miss you very much. Kim and Cait I wish that we guys could be here with me and I can’t wait to see you two in a couple of weeks. Love you always.

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13 Responses to The Waiting Room

  1. Baby May #2 says:

    Hi Caroline!

    It was so great to hear from you today! I think this post is perfect in so many ways:

    1. In a very different way, I think the four of us here have felt like we are in a waiting room too. Everyday at 3pm we stalk the blog to see if it was your turn to post, just to hear the tiniest bit about your experience. We have all had to sit in the discomfort of not knowing what exactly you are doing everyday, or if you are enjoying yourself, or who you are meeting over there. I think I can learn a valuable lesson from you and just try to sit in this discomfort, and know that whatever you are doing at any minute of the day, it is what God has planned for you to do.
    2. It’s funny for me to read that you were scared of hospitals and now choose to make it the place where you will be everyday. If that doesn’t show growth, I don’t know what does. You have always had this incredible ability to be open-minded in situations, and allow yourself to develop out of them. I think it is representative of your time in Zambia, and I pray that you grow from this experience as well.
    3. After reading this post, it immediately brought me back to Denver this past March. I often wondered during that week if such a short time was doing more harm then good, and I was also uncomfortable not knowing my exact role there. But, I can also think about all the things on that trip that brought me peace – balloons, Tea Time, newly painted white kitchen walls, among many others – and I think I now see that it’s ok that I didn’t have all the answers, and I might not figure it all out anytime soon. So thank you for that lesson as well.
    4. In a more literal sense, this past January, I would not have wanted to sit in a waiting room for 6 hours, trying to figure out what just happened to my knee in an intramural basketball game, with anyone else. You made me feel better and you kept me calm. I’m so glad that another part of the world gets to meet and experience Caroline May – you are such a bright light. You have a positive impact on everyone you meet, and I hope you know that all of your actions are some of the most thoughtful and intentional things I have ever witnessed – keep your head up on the rest of your time there!

    Thanks for your words bud, I am so excited to see you in a few days!! We will be waiting at the airport with In-N-Out!

    All my love,

  2. Baby May #1 says:


    We, and most of IV, have been anxiously waiting to hear from you! Not much has changed here – Rockie and Charlie are both doing well, we spend a majority of our time at the Potlatch, and the Lab still has the best coffee in town.

    You sound like you have had quite the experience so far in Zambezi! I am so proud of what you are doing there. I know how challenging it can be to immerse yourself into new communities and establish new relationships for only a short period and question how much your time there really means. Your post actually reminded me a lot of the feelings I experienced on M:P in NYC. I remember the inspiration and passion I felt throughout the trip itself and the subsequent frustration after leaving Hour Children and feeling useless after being so far removed from the community I had just become a part of. I think, however, it is important to remember that your life is made up of the moments you have with people and that those moments come in all shapes and sizes. Whether your moment is a two-second smile, a month-long study abroad, or fifty-year marriage, that moment becomes a part of your story and the story of the one you shared it with. The most important thing is how you allow those moments to shape who you are as a person and therefore how you create moments with others down the road. And as for you, I hope you know that you have created, and continue to create, some of the most meaningful and intentional moments of so many people’s lives – you certainly have in mine.

    I am so excited to see you in a few days! I wish you the best with your time left in Zambezi and will continue to pray for you and the Zam Fam. Sending you all my love!


  3. Lindsey says:

    C May,

    What a beautiful reflection and powerful metaphor. Thank you for sharing your willingness to sit in the discomfort and admit that it’s uncomfortable. That’s hard to do, especially when it seems like those around you are more comfortable with the waiting room or not even there at all.

    Hendrix is wonderful! Please say hello to him for me and to Mama Katendi as well.

    Chels and I are headed to Tahoe for the next few days, and I can think of few people who love Tahoe as much as you. Can’t wait for you to come back to Incline and see it yourself! Cascade Falls is CRAZY right now and the lake is so high! Enjoy your last week in Zambezi! We’re sending love to you from one of the greatest places.

    Love always,

  4. Katie Barger says:

    Hi friend. You never cease to amaze me. Those questions you are asking are both ones I am still trying to figure out, or ones I haven’t ever thought of. It is so hard to find serenity amongst known and difficult, and often harder in the unknown and uncertain. It is something I so struggle with, but also something you have helped me a lot with in little ways throughout the last couple of years. You are so good at listening with your whole self and helping others find that peace. I know this has been a really challenging year for you, but despite all the stress you were under, you always found time to check-in, make me steamed milk for my tea, or reluctantly give me a much needed hug when I was afraid of the unknown. You sit with others so gracefully in the waiting room. The heart you have for those around you may be quieter than some, but it is so much bigger than most. I can only imagine how you are loving your friends in Zambia and your fellow Zam Fam so well as you all wait together.
    My hope for you is that while you support those around you, you can also grant yourself the grace to struggle and ask for help too. You are so hard on yourself sometimes it drives me nuts. I so admire your humility, it is something I strive for, but I also hope you come to know how beautiful, strong, and capable you are to go beyond what you ever thought was possible. It sounds like you have already begun this process, heck you are in Zambia, but I pray you continue so that you might one day know how swaggy your dance moves are, how gorgeous your singing voice is, how smart you are, how good at soccer you are- that’s right chindele’s get ready to see this pro play futbol at your game next week- and how worthy of love you are.
    Zags, if you see CMay shaking her head or doing that eye-brow thing to deny that she’s awesome, please kindly tell her to stop and that she is awesome.
    Someone please give CMay a hug for me! Trust me, she LOVES hugs hehe. All my love to you my friend! Keep finding peace in the waiting room, granting yourself grace, loving others in the beautiful way that you do, and having courage to ask the hard questions. I can’t wait to see you and continue learning from the incredible person you are. I’ll leave you with Brene Brown’s words as you continue to wait, “Choosing courage does not mean that we’re unafraid, it means that we are brave enough to love despite the fear and uncertainty.”

    Kisu Mwane, Katie Barger

    P.S. I went on a hike with Alyssa today and we talked about how great you all are. Know that you are all supported, appreciated, and so so loved. I gave Beaux extra snugs for you, Taylor!
    P.S.S. I saw the video of Anna and I think Ethan on Josh’s instagram and my heart melted. Wow wow wow wow wow wow wow. That is all I have to say.

  5. Moira Andrews says:

    Dear Caroline,
    What a beautifully honest piece. I always love hearing from you. Thank you for sharing what is truly on your heart. I think it is often hard to admit that we are uncomfortable and dealing with a lot of confusing questions, but here you are laying it all out there with such grace and love. Thank you for your honesty and reminding me that it is okay to be uncomfortable and wrestle with tough questions. This is such a powerful metaphor because it connects your experiences and relationships to a career that is your vocation, you truly are going to be a wonderful nurse. Your ability to recognize this discomfort is what makes you such an incredible nurse and friend. You are always there for others and you always hold them and love them for entirely who they are. Thank you for loving me for me. My hope is that you treat yourself gently over the remaining of this trip. You belong there and I am sure that my fellow Zags all agree that you bring unmatched love and joy into all your relationships. Love you dearly. Miss you, see you soon, have fun and continue to be your wonderful self.
    Love and kisu mwane,
    Moira (M-i-ra, my attempt at spelling your pronunciation of my name lol)

  6. Abby Beck says:

    Much like your family, I have been waiting for your blog post! I admire your willingness to ask the hard questions. While it is hard not to have answers, you sit in the waiting room with grace (even though it may not feel like it). This is one small part of what made you such a wonderful leader on MP Denver this past spring. You asked hard questions and encourage all of us to do the same, even when it was hard and uncomfortable. You bring a sense of calm and light and joy with you everywhere you go, and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that. It was so wonderful to hear from you, and I can’t wait to hear more about your experience.

    Much love,

  7. Eileen May says:

    Well hello there! I must confess that Kimberly is correct in her assessment of the 3:00 blog stalk. Every post has been insightful and full of raw honest emotion, so thank you to everyone for giving us a glimpse into your world. As for you my little love, thank you for giving me some perspective. I am sitting in the chair right next to you in that waiting room. Although my circumstances are different, they bring forth of the same discomfort. Your words are an encouragement to me as I find my new path and a reminder that the waiting room can be a place of rest and being still as the answers to our questions unfold.

    I am very happy to report that the snow has finally stopped falling and a beautiful Tahoe summer is waiting for you (and any friends!) See you soon!

    All my love,
    Momma May

    PS Dad is on duty so he will see your post tomorrow 🙂

  8. Molly Freimuth says:

    CMay and the rest of the Zam Fam,

    What a blessing it is to me to hear all of your amazing experiences and memories made thus far on your journey in Zambia. Caroline, I first off want to say that this post impacted me greatly and I know it did the same for others so don’t stress about your post! You see the world in such a neat way, Caroline, and it shines through in your reflection, frustrations, questions, and revelations. You never cease to both impress and inspire me as a friend because regardless of your discomfort in situations you follow where your heart calls. You push through all the frustration and discomfort with God’s grace and that provides a light for all of us to follow. I am so proud of you and all that you are experiencing in your time in Zambia. Know that I keep you in my prayers daily. I pray especially you find that calm within your heart that will give you the peace you need each day.

    To the rest of the Zam Fam (Mo, Morgan, Jess, everyone!) you all inspire me with your insight and ability to stay grounded. I can’t wait to hear everyone’s stories when you come back. You all will also be in my prayers!

    Much love,


  9. Venezia says:


    I remember feeling so similar to you a couple years ago. I just wasn’t really sure what to make of everything I was experiencing. In allowing yourself to sit with your uncertainties and discomfort, you are already beginning to make the most of your reflections about the whole trip. I am seriously so impressed by all of the ideas and thoughts you have all been sharing with us.

    Kelen- quick update..I’m headed to RMV for a week for MDA 1 and I’ll be thinking about you the whole time. I’m excited to be in a place that you love so much and even more excited to do camp together in a month! miss you lots lady

  10. Someone call the doctor…or in this case the nurse. says:

    “For God alone, O my soul, waits in silence”
    First point that I need to note. A. your family (ie. family+katie b+ abby) is freaken adorable. B. My trees are better, the color is apricate, and…Katie said it…your eyes are brown…didn’t you practically kill me when I said that they were freshman year?
    Second point. Hmmm. This is a beautiful analogy and just as your quite voice usually does…your words have spoken so true and with such clarity in my incorrect way of thinking. I am with you, I hate the waiting room. However, I particularly hate being called back by the nurse, being stuck in a tinny check-up room, and having her tell me “the Doctor will be with you shortly.” Uh most cringeworthy place to be because it feels like a Small. Lonely. Soundless. Space. But…then again…that space is and only feels small, lonely, and soundless if you attempt to go to the Doctors by yourself. Caroline…it sounds like you have checked in to the doctors, but from this blog you have brought your family, some Tahoe friends, and your zag and Zambian community. Instead of being stuck in a small. Lonely. Soundless. Space. You will be waiting with a heck of a lot of love and support that may or may not be able to stay contained in that waiting area. I am so proud to hear your own words state that you have a Zag community by your side. I hope that you are utilizing that and sharing your biggest fears and greatest joys with them. Haha I like what you said. You know that you checked in, so you might as well make the most of that time and space that you are allowed. Just a small note though…that learning to sit with all of those big questions, thoughts, and emotions is not something that usually can be mastered after the second or third attempt. You may find yourself pacing around a bit, wiggling your fingers, and looking around, but as you are learning… that is all part of the process. So as Katie said, try to give a little grace. I see so much growth in you, its kinda crazy! Of course, you still are hold that compassion, and wholeheartedness, but you are also starting to venture out into new places that you never thought of going! Mmm wow. Yes. Beautiful. And as always I am praying for you and praying this verse too. Like I said before, just being brave enough to say “yes” when God calls you is a gift in itself.
    Again. I am so proud of you. The change over these three years is real and the accompaniment that you have done in these past 21 years of life so far is pretty crazy awesome to see.

    PS. “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched they must be felt with the heart.” I found this note in the jar in my room a while ago and it made me smile.
    PSS. Thanks for still walking with me this year. I know.. “I am hard to love, hard to love, and I don’t make it easy.”
    PSSS. You are going to be a fantastic nurse in the near future because of your honesty, your compassion, and your recognition that it’s not about the black and white, but the area of grey that we need to live into together. Keep waiting with all of those amazing family members and friends of yours.

  11. Blair Zykan says:


    A very thoughtful post. There can beauty in discomfort, and there can be peace. Such fun and inspirational to see how much everyone is learning about themselves, each other, and your Zambian friends.

    A note to Elly – It is a joy to read your posts. Not just for what you write about. But equally the beautiful way you put thoughts to paper (or the computer screen). We’re headed to Castle Rock this afternoon for Leslie’s Mom’s 70th birthday. I’m sure the crew will be asking about you – I will share the picture of you from your post – it says it all. I have a feeling you will return to Zambezi again.

    Deeply enjoy the rest of this adventure. Chindende, Chindende.



  12. Jeffrey Dodd says:

    Hi, Caroline.

    I hope you’re well. I just wanted to share a little something that your post reminded me of. The metaphor of the waiting room is one that affects many of us. A friend you and I share, one who’s likely lurking on this blog, recently let me borrow her copy of Henri Nouwen’s “Out of Solitude” (I’ll return it to you eventually, shared friend of Caroline May and Jeffrey Dodd).

    In that book he makes a distinction between desiring a cure, or being part of offering a cure–that is, what comes for the patient after the waiting room–and care, along with its etymological root in lamentation. He writes,

    “Still, when we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not-knowing, not-curing, not-healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is the friend who cares.”

    Caroline, you are going into a care profession, and I hope Gonzaga has equipped you for all the technical aspects of that vocation. But I know that you have had the emotional and social skills necessary for the kind of care Nouwen describes from the moment you stepped on campus. I saw it in the way you served your classmates in my class as a first-year student, I’ve heard testament to it from other faculty and students, and the evidence is front and center from all those who beat me to the comment board.

    Yes, the waiting room is difficult, but think of all the challenge of life that occurs there. We walk in not knowing what fate awaits, and all we want is someone to sit alongside us, to know that even if the news isn’t great, someone will be there to help us bear it. I know you’ve been that someone for more people than most of us, and I thank you for making our community stronger, more empathic, and more caring.

    Enjoy your last week or so in Zambezi. Perhaps this time next year you’ll be figuring out how to use that nursing degree to get yourself back!

    All my best,

  13. Kathy says:


    Thank you for the lovely thoughts to reflect on–“How do we find peace in the discomfort of not knowing exactly how to ‘be’ in various situations?” Something to p0nder and pray about…

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