Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sales, not management

I just started a volunteer job as a chaplain assistant in the pastoral care dept. at a local Catholic hospital. Every Wednesday for about four hours (minus lunch) I visit patients on the cardiac floor. It's an interesting dynamic, different from a pastor visiting a parishioner, even those church members I've never met before. I don't represent a church or particular faith tradition or any at all, for that matter. I meet patients where they are, most of them men, offer to be of help to them, engage them in conversation, and pray with them, if they request it. Many times I am not asked to pray with patients so we visit, briefly or for a few minutes. Sometimes I am asked if I can do anything to get the doctor in sooner and get them released from the hospital. If it seems appropriate, I'll reply with "I'm in sales, not management" (in my experience, chaplains and pastors are often asked to do things they have no control over, i.e., "Can you do anything about this rain, heat, etc.?"). The laughter eases the tension so we can talk about their anger, fear, anxiety about being in the hospital because of their heart, a very scary thing indeed.

My direct supervisor is Sr. Victoria Nolan, a Sister of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul--retired from the pastoral care staff but now a volunteer, 88 years old with macular degeneration and a joy to be with. We usually eat lunch together and she tells me stories about her career as a nun. What a life she is living!

Today, just a few funny things happened that made the day interesting:

Before I went upstairs to visit folks, I went to the ladies room. As I was sitting 'doing my business' I looked over at the stall next to mine and saw two feet pointed the other way! Whoever he was, he finished quickly and left before I could ask him why he had to invade my privacy.

At the behest of a spouse of a patient, I went down to Security to ask about a parking pass. I was waiting behind a group of students. One of them, a man in his late twenties, early thirties said, "Let the young lady go ahead of us." That's nice coming from someone older than you, but younger it sounds like kissing up or just plain stupid. I wish I had had the nerve to ask him just how young he thought I was.

Lastly, I went into a patient's room, he was on the phone, I said I was from pastoral care, should I come back; he said "no", he didn't need a visit. When I reached the hallway, I heard him say into the phone "It was the Church!", like you would comment about something else pointless, unnecessary and irksome. ...And I'm racking my brain trying to think of something as universally pointless and irksome as the Church is to a lot of folks. Let that be your challenge for today. I'd like to know what you come up with.

Also, I'm reading a very funny teen book entitled An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. It's about a high school prodigy named Colin who is disasterously attracted to girls named Katherine. He's just been dumped by K-19 and goes on a summer road trip with his friend Hassan ("I'm not a terrorist."). If you like anagrams, a smattering of math, and quirky humor, you'll love this book. If you're thinking of recommending it to a young person, ages 13-17 would be appropriate (the word "fug" is used quite a bit; something I would not want my 10 yr. old picking up).

No parting words come to mind. Ciao!


Lara said...

Hi Cynthia - I'm Andy's friend who'll be at the UCC meeting in Hartford in June.

As for the pointless and irksome, I'd put time-share telemarketers on the list. On the other hand, that's what I often feel like myself - selling time-shares in the hereafter - frustrating business we're in a lot of the time, isn't it?

I did 18 months as chaplain at a retirement community. My first Sunday preaching in the nursing home facility was among the most memorable ever - I had an elderly, male, Southern Baptist, Alzheimers patient circle me with his walker through the entire service accusing me of being "sent by the devil," alerting me to the fact that he was "firing" me, and loudly asking God to strike me down for being, um, female I suppose.

Now THAT's irksome!

Cynthia said...

Lara, I just found your comment. What a riot! When you say you "did 18 mos." it almost sounds like jail time.

Yeah, that's us...sent by the devil only to be struck down by God and fired from the job. What a marketing campaign that would make for encouraging young people into the ministry!

Nice to meet you! Hope we see each other in Hartford.