Have you ever recorded the number of people who you have interactions with over any period of time? Well, this summer as part of my job, I did.
572 is the number of people who I provided Pastoral Care for in the past 11 weeks. That 572 includes children and adult patients, spouses, friends, significant others, and staff. That 572 is just the amount of people I recorded, it leaves out short regular conversations that built up significant connections.
40 is the number of times I prayed at a bedside. There were 40 different instances of creating spontaneous prayer with Jews, Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Buddists, secularists, and the list can go on. There were 40 times that I called out to God for healing and support and for praise for what has been done so far.
During those 40 times, I did not always lead the prayer. Many times someone from the family or the patient themselves did- which in my opinion always made the prayer that much stronger and beautiful. My role was not the one to pray, but rather the one to create a space for prayer.
I prayed in English, Hebrew and Spanish. Even though I don’t know any Spanish, I was there with people reading Psalms, saying “Our Father”, and even a personal beseeching. It was creating that holy space. It was about being another person so hopefully for those few moments they feel less lonely. It was about bringing in God or hope, in a time where there was nothing else that we could do.
It is amazing to think about what was accomplished over the past 11 weeks. Although the role of listener was something I held many times, I feel like this was different. I had the title of chaplain. I was not just there to be a pair of ears. I was there to create a space to try to do something metaphysical. To create a space of crying, calling, praising, thanking, questioning, God or some higher power.
And now I have graduated from my first CPE unit. I am thankful for having met great people, who are kind and wise- I would even call some of them mentors. I am thankful for having been given the opportunity to work in such a large hospital that I met people from all walks of life. I am thankful that I had an opportunity to try on the “hat” of religious leader, as very soon it will be one that I will be wearing indefinitely. And I thank those 572 people who were open to me being with them in some of their hardest days, while teaching me so much about patience, listening, and caring.