Being Kind, Accompanying a Friend

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, April 24, 2014

 

friendship when people know all about you

Being Kind, Accompanying a Friend

I accompanied a friend to a medical visit today. I was happy to! Really.

This reminded me of situations in the hospital or in the care center, where I—the chaplain—would stay with patients and their relatives while medical personnel came into the room and talked at length about their medical condition. Or, about other sensitive or confidential information.

Of course, I would never stay without their permission. Sometimes, if the patient was unable to request my presence, the family members would. And, I understood, oftentimes. If I do say so myself, I have a comforting, less-anxious presence. This is helpful when I deal with upset or anxious patients and loved ones, or even angry and downright upset patients and relatives. And on occasion, the patient or family want me to pray for them, pray for the loved ones at home or scattered throughout the country. Or, pray for healing of body and soul, pray for comfort and encouragement for everyone involved (in the hospital and outside, too).

There’s another reason I remain with them: an extra pair of ears is sometimes helpful, too. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Even though the medical personnel often speak slowly and try to make sure the patient and family understand all the explanations and details and options, sometimes things can be overwhelming. All the information, all the upset, all the distraction. The unfamiliar rooms and beds, the hospital units, the unfamiliar staff coming into the rooms at all hours. And in some hospitals, the sheer size of the facility can be intimidating.

Not that my friend today was involved with any of these unpredictable aspects, but all the things eventually got squared away. I did, however, keep my ears open when the medical personnel came in, and I simply listened. Active listening, I mean. I hold people’s confidences very dear to my heart, and do my very best to get the clear picture from the medical professional. Just as backup for my friend, in case there was any clarification needed or discrepancy found.

My friend and I had a good talk, after the office visit. I am glad I was there to be an extra pair of eyes, ears and way of transportation.

I wonder: will there be anyone to do that for me? I am in fairly good health. (Yay, me!) I don’t think I need to go into the hospital or care centers right now. So, I suspect there will be sometimes when my loved ones need medical care. Or, even me! I might need to go to the doctor or oral surgeon or some other kind of professional. Ya never know. (I don’t!)

@chaplaineliza

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Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 23, 2014

begin where you are

Unexpected Service? Blows Me Away!

Another Sunday, another church service. Except, this is a new church for me. And a new position—leading worship, preaching, directing music. What a wonderful opportunity for me to be of service! I’ll need to learn all kinds of things, like names. Ministries. Preferences. And most important, I’ll need to listen. Keep my mouth shut and learn. And love. Serve, and love some more.

A big praise, because I had a great time this morning after the service, too.  Talking to all the people of the congregation, those who stayed afterwards for coffee hour, and those who needed to leave right away.  As I finished up in the church office some time after almost everyone had left (except the Korean congregation, whose service was in progress in the sanctuary), a couple knocked at the office door.

“Hello! Welcome to St. Luke’s Church,” I said. I smiled at the couple—my big, happy smile. Who is it, but a couple from the Middle East! The man spoke fairly good English. The woman could speak a little, but she wanted proper English lessons—ESL classes. They wondered whether St. Luke’s Church could point them to some place that offered ESL classes nearby. Apparently, they live only a couple of blocks from the church. When I said that I would find out more and get back to them tomorrow or by Tuesday, at the latest, they were so grateful! I am glad I would assist them, and point them in a positive direction.

I am going to call the town hall to begin with, tomorrow, and see what they might be able to tell me about ESL classes. I know I only live two suburbs over from this town, but it’s far enough so that I am not quite sure what resources are available here. I know, I’ll need to learn in a hurry! But that’s okay, since I know some helping professionals close to home. They ought to be able to give me some good tips and point me in the right direction, too. It’s an exciting prospect, to be sure!

When I was working at the hospital, I served not only as chaplain, but also as an additional pair of listening ears, as assistance in trying times or anxious times. And, on occasion, as advocate for patients and for their loved ones. This new situation is not widely different. Strikingly similar, in fact. I need to find out some information and then communicate the information to the couple. Different sort of information, but still communication. Still assisting people, no matter where it is.

God, when I asked You to show me where You might want me to serve at the beginning of January, I certainly never expected to be serving You here! In this place, in this way! God, help me serve you and serve others as best as I can. Please, God. And I know You’ll be with me, all the way. Thanks!

@chaplaineliza

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Not One Hundred Percent

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 9, 2014

hospital patient

Not One Hundred Percent

I didn’t feel one hundred percent today. Sub par. Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of the house this morning. Once I had started the day and was outside, I felt better. (I ought to take my own advice, since that’s what I’ve said to my children for years when they don’t feel very chipper in the morning.)

I had the opportunity to be with a senior for a bit today. This senior needed some assistance and companionship, and I was happy to provide it. We didn’t talk too much, but this senior was content to simply sit with me there as a companion. I was very much aware of the ministry of presence. My being-with this senior was loving and giving of myself.

I know what the ministry of presence is, but some do not. Simply put, it is not a human doing, but instead becoming a human being. Simply being present with another person. I’ve been told by many people that my caring, less-anxious presence can be gentle and calming. Sometimes that’s what anxious or frightened or upset people need. And oftentimes, I provide it.

Several of my former supervisors mentioned this aspect of my character (my giftedness?). I think back to how I began this post, and connected it to a verbatim I wrote for my first chaplain internship. The verbatim concerned a senior couple at the hospital where I did my clinical rotation. However, one of the most distinctive things about that in-depth paper was one of the learning issues that I dealt with at the time. How do I manage to navigate and work when I don’t feel up to par? Not one hundred percent? I was not feeling quite chipper for the clinical day at the hospital, either. Yet God was still able to use me.

I did pray before I went to the floors for my clinical chaplain visits that day. It’s amazing. I wrote this particular verbatim almost ten years ago, yet I can still see and hear portions of the conversation and interaction in my mind. Upon reflection afterwards, I was awed by the openness of both the husband and the patient. God has given me an open heart and open ears to listen to people who are hurting. That’s a big reason why I went to seminary in the first place—to get further training in how to more intelligently, actively listen to people, and to walk with them as they go through difficult places in their lives. I am surprised at how little I did say to both of these dear seniors, reading over the verbatim just now. Yet the couple seemed really happy with my visit, and really wanted me to come back.

This situation in my verbatim was early in my experience as a chaplain. However, even then I used the ministry of presence. Today I come alongside of people, being with them. Sometimes I talk with them, and sometimes I’m quiet. For example, like I was with the senior I helped today. I tried to be a gentle, friendly companion, and I think I succeeded.

@chaplaineliza

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, January 6, 2014

photo by Sergei Kvitko

photo by Sergei Kvitko

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

It was cold in the Chicago area today. Frigid. I mean, exposed skin would freeze if uncovered for more than a few minutes. I understand that we broke a temperature record with -15 degrees. We won’t even talk about the wind chill, with wind gusts anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

I needed to be out and about today, going to and from work. Despite the extreme temperature, it was a beautiful day! Crisp, clear air. Blue sky. Since I had a functioning vehicle and wasn’t walking, I enjoyed the trip.

During the course of the day, I met someone who needed to get out of their garage. Thank heaven their suburb was on top of things and had already sent snow plows down the alleys. One wrinkle: in sending out the plow to clear the alleyway, the snow subsequently was piled in a heap against the garages. An anxious senior was involved, and I had the time and the ability. They had the snow shovel. So, I was happy to shovel out the apron of their garage and allow them access to the alleyway.

Another case of “who is my neighbor?” I didn’t live anywhere near this senior, not like my friend with the snow blower whose story I related several days ago. However, I felt compassion for this dear senior. Of course I shoveled the snow.

I try to keep myself in fair physical condition. I consider this part of my spiritual service to God, to keep up my physical self, to stretch and exercise regularly. I try to go to the gym three times a week and do what I can. Cardio-vascular, a little strength training, and (most important!) stretching both before and after. When I don’t go to the gym for a few days, my body starts to let me know through aches and pains.

This is a roundabout way for me to mention exactly why I felt so free to just pick up the shovel and go at it. I feel blessed that I am in decent physical shape, and I don’t want to lose that ability any time soon.

But what about people who are less-abled? Like several of my friends and acquaintances, who have lost some or most of the physical range of motion and ability they were born with? They are growing more and more dependent on others to do things for them. This dependence can be a source of griping and grumbling, or of gratitude and thankfulness. I see any number of reactions and responses to offers of service, on a regular basis.  However, I can let those I serve (or offer to serve) respond as they will. God has not made me an arbiter of people’s thoughts and actions. Instead, God has encouraged me to serve. And this year, my hope, my intention is to find some kind of service each day. Not to judge people on whether they have gratitude for the service, or whether they thank me. Service is what God has called me to do.

I wonder what will show up tomorrow? God willing, I’ll find out.

@chaplaineliza