A lot of waiting happens in hospitals. I get to be chaplain to people who are waiting for an organ transplant, waiting for a baby to arrive, waiting for their discharge orders to go home, waiting for test results, waiting for the medication to work, waiting for death, their own or a loved one’s. Often they don’t know how long they will have to wait, and that makes the waiting harder. And no matter what they’re waiting for, they know that things will be different when the waiting is over, in ways that they may not even be able to anticipate.
It’s been a week since Orlando. It’s been a year since Charleston. Anniversaries of tragedies can resurface all the feelings of shock, anger, and grief that we initially felt. The grief of public tragedies lately has been overwhelming for me. Through the combination of clinical depression, a deep sense of empathy, and a vivid imagination, I get stuck imagining myself over and over in the place of the victims when I hear the horror stories in the news. I had to stop listening for a while. But still again and again my mind returns to the Pulse nightclub a week ago, and Mother Emanuel AME church a year ago. The only thing that makes it bearable for me is to do what Fred Rogers said his mother taught him to do when he saw horrible things on the news: “Look for the helpers.” Continue reading “Looking for the Helpers”
Last week was pretty terrible. It started with a death that was particularly tragic even by the standards of someone who works as a hospital chaplain, and it would have ended with a funeral, except that I could not bring myself to go. So much of my own emotional baggage resurfaced in the wake of this situation that I knew I would be no good as a caregiver if I went. The sadness weighed so heavy on me that I could hardly get out of bed. And then, mercifully, there was the weekend, and a friend’s birthday to celebrate, and unexpected moments of grace. Yesterday morning was good, in real and simple ways that I don’t want to lose. Continue reading “The Last Thing I Expected”
They both showed up several times in my newsfeed today. Both Caucasian American men and both pastors named Fred, but otherwise they seemed complete opposites. Today was the birthday of Fred McFeely Rogers, a Presbyterian minister who passed away in 2003. His real congregation was the millions of children (including the one I was thirty years or so ago) who knew him through public television simply as their neighbor Mister Rogers. And today saw the death, after a long decline, of Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing funerals and other events with signs proclaiming God’s hatred for some people. The juxtaposition was jarring. I thought about the two Freds all day, and couldn’t help wondering if they will meet in the afterlife. What would they say to one another? What does each of them know now about God that he got wrong while here on earth? (None of us gets it completely right, I’m sure, not even Mister Rogers.) Continue reading “Two Freds (and me)”
Israel made me nervous. In all my international travels, I had never been anywhere that I felt so unsafe. Before entering any of the shops in downtown Jerusalem, we had to have our bags searched for weapons, and it seemed every shopkeeper had a story to tell about a bombing that his or her business had managed to survive. One of my friends said that she felt protected because everywhere we went, there were teenage Israeli soldiers with guns. Their presence made me feel just the opposite. And yet every day, we heard “Peace.” Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is the common greeting there, and it was in our ears and on our lips at each stop along our journey. Shalom. Peace. Continue reading “Fear and Peace: Advent 2”