What a Compton hospital taught me about beauty

daffodilsWe arrived on a Saturday, with buckets full of fresh flowers.  

Outside the building, we divided from containers into armloads, and walked through the doors in pairs. Immediately, I was overcome by how stark and bleak things felt on the inside, compared to the warm summer sun shining down on the outside. The hallways were bare, the walls aching for artwork. As we strolled from room to room, the emptiness inside made my heart ache.


I was among a group of college students, delivering flowers to patients at a hospital in Compton. You know, that poor and dangerous and news-making neighborhood of Los Angeles.


We went from room-to-room, dropping off bouquets, engaging in conversation, and praying for patients. The longer we were there, the more I was struck by the contrast between this hospital and the one I would find in my hometown in Wisconsin.


The rooms were empty.


No balloons. No flowers. No cards. Nothing.


The residents sat in white hospital beds covered in white sheets surrounded by white cement walls. It certainly looked like a place of medicine, but it did not look like a place of healing.


At the end of the day, I remember feeling dissatisfied that I wasn’t more successful at the conversations with patients. After all, I hadn’t converted anybody to follow Jesus. All I had done was delivered flowers and prayed.


As I look back on the experience, I am convinced that bringing flowers to those rooms was holy work.


The need for beauty is never so clear as the moment you are completely surrounded by its absence.


Those hospital rooms were filled with hopelessness, sickness, and loneliness. Though, on the surface, a little bouquet seems much less important than medicine, I wonder if it provides something essential for the healing process.




The flowers were reminder that beauty was available in the life outside those walls, and it was worth fighting to get back out there.


I wonder if God had this in mind when He crafted flowers in the first place. If even in the beginning, God knew flowers’ beauty could one day change the feeling of an entire hospital. He is, after all, in the business of bringing life into dead places.


Right now, as I write, I am looking at a vase full of daffodils. They are my tangible reminder that spring is coming, even though the weather outside still brings the harsh sting of winter winds. Flower-induced smiles are not restrained to patients in hospital rooms of the inner city, they extend to suburban moms sitting at their kitchen tables.


Beauty does that. It lives and breathes of a hope beyond itself.


I wonder if I can spread beauty more often. I want to walk out of rooms like I did as a flower-bearing college student: leaving them better than I found them. I can do that. With my words and actions and creations, I can be a purveyor of beauty.


What if each of us made that our goal each day? To leave behind more beauty than what existed when we got up in the morning?


I want to see that world.


“Only you can make the conscious decision to use your life to create beauty. And only you can decide how you will create it.” – Matt Appling


Life after Art CoverThe book Life After Art, which released yesterday, inspired this post. I was given an advanced copy for review, and without compulsion I can tell you that I highly recommend it. Like me, I believe it will cause you to think about what you are creating with your life.

Want to read it? I am giving a copy away!

Simply leave a comment below giving one idea of how you can create some beauty with your life. I will announce the winner on Friday.