About a month ago, after a particularly difficult encounter, I started to wonder why God called me to this work, how I was in any way equipped to help people that are in so much pain and have such a myriad of issues…..what was I thinking??? And then, God answers with a week like this. Here is just a taste of what my week has looked like.
Monday: I see people in my office today, people who make appointments to talk with a Spiritual Care Provider about life, purpose, hope, resiliency, anger, grief, sorrow, and to learn spiritual practices that enrich their whole lives. We talk about relationships, about family, about how our belief systems inform our lives, and about how our belief systems sometimes push others away. These are rich conversations. I meet a new client. He wants to learn how to appreciate his life and how to slow down. We talk about meditation and enter into some beginning practices. Later, I see someone who is in great despair, who is deeply grieving many losses. I listen, I console, I teach a breathing and tapping practice to help bring her comfort and calm. Hugs and blessings are exchanged.
Tuesday: The grieving woman is outside the building. She shares that she is feeling better, offers thanks, and tells me that she was blessed by learning the tapping technique. She tells me that she connected with her niece who is also deeply grieving and my client taught her the tapping technique. It helped! By offering this, she was able to feel a measure of healing as well as help her niece in her time of need. Hugs and blessings are shared again..and I’m off to the next place.
I arrive at the shelter for our weekly meditation. We breathe, we do a body scan, I tell a story about a person who keeps falling into the same hole until he realizes that he can make a different choice. After meditation, a new guest asks to speak with me. He tells me about injustice and mistreatment he has encountered, he tells me about his family, his children, he tells me he is a Christian, he shares quite a bit. He relates the meditation topic to his mistreatment with high energy, and frankly for a long time I don’t know if he is upset at me or not. He is telling me that he didn’t have a choice in how he was treated, but he does have a choice in how he reacts. He says “thank you, I needed to be reminded of that today.” Blessings are exchanged.
I head over to Baybridge for a meditation/prayer group. It’s really meditation, except the participants often include the sign of the cross and a hearty “amen” after the lovingkindness mantra. Today we have a couple of new participants. One young woman greets me -as she always does-with “I don’t believe in God or Jesus.” “Ok,” I say, “it’s not a requirement for us to hang out together.” We walk into the meditation room and a clubhouse member is sleeping on the floor. She decides to stay. We have a lovely meditation. We consider our connection to beauty and how our natural world offers peace, calm, and joy. After meditation my atheist friend wants to talk. She tells me a friend of hers just died. She cries, not the tears of a self-conscious adult, but the un-filtered, uncensored tears of a child. My heart breaks for her. We sit together, she tells me about her friend, she grieves others who have passed. She asks if she can hug me, offers thanks, tells me she trusts me, and leaves.
I’m about to leave when the sleeping woman pops up like a bird in a nest. She tells me she’s been sober for a while now… weeks. We talk about her struggle with alcohol, her sobriety, the pain of experiences when one is not under the influence. We talk about housing, her dislike of congregate living. We talk about her deep faith and belief system. She is trying so hard, and I affirm and encourage. Blessings and hugs are exchanged and it’s back to office for meetings about the High Risk, Zero Suicide program that I am working to implement.
Wednesday. I’m back to the shelter, I go here today just to be present and see if anyone wants to talk. I engage a guest in conversation. We reminisce about shared childhood haunts, tell stories about places we used to hang out; he is very proud of his town of origin-a town in which I used to live. We’ve had these talks regularly over the past year, but today he shares that his sister died by suicide years ago. Another layer is peeled back; another step toward deeper trust. We talk some more and he says “you can’t change the past, it is what it is…” I offer condolences and he changes the subject. We talk a while longer and then I need to go. On the way out I check in with another young man who was recently homeless, and he lets me know he is staying at the shelter and is safe. He shares his blog post on substance misuse. We talk about the biblical use of substances, particularly wine and what the Bible says about drinking. My friend quotes the Bible and discusses the doctrine of purity as stated by Paul. What a wonderful gift to have these deep conversations, to wrestle with biblical meaning. Together we think that intent is the key to being pure, and the need to discern intent before picking up that glass of wine.
I head off to the Coffeehouse, a gathering of service professionals who work with those experiencing homelessness. Lots of people to greet, lots of quick exchanges. I needed to be here today because I saw a young woman at our weekly outdoor worship service. She had shown me her arm –she was self-harming again. On Sunday we talked for a long time about how she can stay safe. She said she needed to give her blades to someone she trusts, and wanted to bring them to me at the coffeehouse. Finally, she arrives and tells me about her concerns about the choices that she has been making and her need to be living somewhere that is not abusive. I introduced her to the outreach worker from Duffy and together we talk about choices and offer possibilities. She did not bring her blades to me and couldn’t make any decisions right now about housing, but at least she knows her options and she knows that we care.
Next, I’m off to the nursing home to visit two clients. They were good visits, both people expressed hope, both were upbeat and positive. These are such wonderful opportunities for connection and I am grateful for the chance to talk, to get caught up, to see them moving forward in their wellness plan.
Now it’s 12:30 and I have to get back to Duffy for a medical bridge program. I love this program because I never know who will be there, what their needs will be, how they will engage with me or the other providers. It’s quite exciting. We start Bridge with a short talk about what to expect. There is hostility and anger today. The next item on the program is a time for meditation…..which seemed to calm people only slightly, there was a great deal of eye rolling and hostile energy directed at me. Once the group got moved into the service providers, only one person was left in the room. She told me about her tattoos, she told me she is a Christian and talked a little about how her belief system shapes her life. Finally, she was called in to her provider and the group ended.
15 encounters. Each completely different. Different needs, different concerns, different beliefs, different levels of trust, different levels of connection. Each encounter is a blessing; an opportunity to meet people at a soul level and be a witness to their grief, their struggle, their anger, their lives, and to walk with them for a while. This week helps me to see that the only way that I can do any of this is by faith and by grace and by the Spirit working through me. I do this work because it is how I live out my faith, it is how I live into making earth a more compassionate, more caring, more kind, more loving, more heavenly place for vulnerable people. I cannot solve or fix anything, but I help carry their burdens while I’m with them and I can pray. I recently told a young activist that I cannot change the entrenched systems of injustice that exist, but I can offer healing one person at a time. Imagine one person after another after another feeling loved, feeling compassion, feeling heard, feeling seen, feeling equipped, feeling empowered. Imagine those people producing a groundswell that can displace the very systems that hold them back and keep them down. Perhaps this is why I am called to this work, perhaps I am actually equipped or perhaps I am simply a conduit for God’s love and Jesus’ mercy and justice.
Grace, Peace and Blessings to all of you!