One day, a very long time ago, I received a powder blue bicycle that made my heart race in anticipation of flying down the street. I could picture my braids streaming behind me as the pavement flew under my tires. No one expected me to fly right away, nor that I’d end up in the emergency room scraped and wounded either. The tree I smacked into was fine. Me? Not so much.
I knew nothing about hospitals and Doctors, nurses and the “stuff” they had, nor what they would do to my aching body. Along came a smiling lady who wasn’t a doctor or a nurse. She was a chaplain. A friendly face to help Mom, Dad and myself go through the process of what was happening with and to me. She had a beautiful smile, a soft voice and listened carefully to all of us. She explained what would happen and she prayed with and for us. She worked at the hospital to help people through tough times. We loved and needed someone just like her.
It was the chaplain that talked with the hospital staff to share our concerns. Since I didn’t know everyone there, we needed to start with something very basic. One thing I wanted was for the staff to pray for me before they took x-ray or gave me the dreaded needles. The chaplain explained that it was important for me to feel secure and they all smiled, explained the procedures and we prayed. She didn’t leave my side when my parents couldn’t go everywhere with me. She became a friend in an unfamiliar place holding my hand when I was afraid and comforting me when I dissolved in tears,
Sometimes pastors are unable to be with us in a medical setting. A hospital with chaplains on staff offers someone to help in times of great need. Some chaplains are clergy persons and others are specially trained lay persons who are familiar with different faith systems. The hospital has trained people to comfort and connect us to our church family or if we don’t have one, to help us in ways that honored our relationship with the Divine Other. It doesn’t matter what our faith system is, they provide comfort and advocacy. That may surprise some people that think all people should believe the same way. I recall Mother Theresa saying that if you were a Buddhist, she wanted you to be the best you could be. We can discuss that in another blog.
Chaplains are lovers of God or Divinity and lovers of persons. They usually are the ones who calm the rest of us during the worst times of our lives. I recall one such person who calmly walked through a harrowing night at the Emergency Department quietly saying, “ Be still and know that I am God.” And in the wake of that person, all got quiet, the hysteria and panic stopped replaced by calm, purposeful talk and actions. Such is the manner of a chaplain. Just that one person quietly walking through the ER reminded us all that God was present in that place, at that time and nothing could happen to us without God being aware.
It has been my privilege to accompany persons during surgery, to pray with and for the dying, to sit in silence and quietly pray as a family made difficult choices for other family members. We walk with strangers as friends in the most stressful times of life. It is a servant life filled with awfully wonderful events and persons God is ever present and we practice the “Theology of Presence” as we walk through life.
I survived my debacle with the bike vs. the tree. Much more than that has happened to this old body. I grew up with a few broken bones, illnesses and later had children, a few surgeries and yes, met a few chaplains en route. It never occurred to me that one day I’d be walking the halls as a chaplain myself. But that’s what happened. In this venue I’d like to share some of those times with you. Some of them are amazing, some show me at my most human. But, they all have happened.
Come, visit, make a comment or two and we’ll share our journeys. I bid you a blessed day.
May God as you understand him bless you and yours.