For my junior year of college, my good friend, Terry, and I decided to transfer to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan — nearly a thousand miles from my home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

This university in Michigan was going to be brand new to me; it was even located in a different country. I knew there would be a significant period of anxiety and confusion, but Terry and I would be there to support each other. As my departure date drew near, my anxiety level began to rise, along with a good bit of excitement.

Just two weeks before it was time to leave, Terry called and informed me that his uncle had made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: His uncle had offered to pay for Terry’s living expenses if he attended Pacific Union College in California. Suddenly, my anxiety turned to downright fear and doubt.

After the initial shock wore off, I contemplated my options for a couple of days and assessed the impact on my ego. Finally I decided to stick with my original plan, and I headed out to Michigan on my own.

The first two weeks were pretty difficult, and the first day felt like I was trapped in a tornado. My world seemed to be spinning, and everything seemed strange. I saw no familiar faces; it felt like I was on another planet, and I felt utterly alone.

It was at that time that I realized the incredible value of a warm smile, a kind gesture or a simple greeting. These expressions of thoughtful kindness were like cool spring water to my parched soul.

Those who come to our hospital are also entering a strange and scary world. They, too, can feel lost and alone. Every kind word, warm smile or offer of assistance has the power to dispel their fear and assure them that they are not alone.

by Chaplain Ron Hyrchuk

February 1, 2007