These days we seem to hear mainly negative stories about politicians. Here is one that paints a different picture. It was a quiet December evening on Ward C43, the oncology unit at Georgetown University Hospital. Many of the rooms around the central nurses' station were dark and empty, but in Room 11 a man lay critically ill. The patient was Jack Swigert, the man who had piloted the Apollo 13 lunar mission in 1970 and was now Congressman-elect from Colorado's 6th Congressional District. Cancer, the great leveler, now waged its deadly assault on his body.
With the dying man was a tall, quiet visitor, sitting in the spot he had occupied almost every night since Swigert had been admitted. Though Bill Armstrong, U.S. Senator from Colorado and chairman of the Senate subcommittee handling Washington's hottest issue, social security, was one of the busiest and most powerful men in Washington, he was not visiting this room night after night as a powerful politician. He was here as a deeply committed Christian and as Jack Swigert's friend, fulfilling a responsibility he would not delegate or shirk, as much as he disliked hospitals.
This night Bill leaned over the bed and spoke quietly to his friend "Jack, you're going to be all right. God loves you. I love you. You are surrounded by friends who are praying for you. You're going to be all right." The only response was Jack's tortured and uneven breathing. Bill pulled his chair closer to the bed and opened his Bible. "Psalm 23," he began to read in a steady voice. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...." Time passed. "Psalm 150," Bill began, then his skin prickled. Jack's ragged breathing had stopped. He leaned down over the bed, then called for help. As he watched the nurse examining Jack, Bill knew there was nothing more he could do. His friend was dead.
Politicians are busy people, especially Senate committee chairmen. Yet, it never occurred to Bill Armstrong that he was too busy to be at the hospital. Nothing dramatic or heroic about his decision - just a friend doing what he could. (As told by Charles Colson in Kingdoms in Conflict.)