pastoral/spiritual care

Practicing the Presence

“It takes three things to attain a sense of significant being:

A soul
And a moment.
And the three are always here.
Just to be is a blessing.  Just to live is holy.”

- Abraham Joshua Heschel

Recently, a nurse shared with me her memories of a patient who had just died.  She told me of conversations they had about the patient’s grandchildren and about the TV channel that was a favorite for both of them.  These were just snippets of small talk, as the nurse got a blood pressure reading or changed an IV bag.  To many, those moments might have appeared unimportant.  But this nurse seemed to understand that our lives are not mostly a series of big events, but a steady stream of seemingly mundane moments, only occasionally punctuated by the “important” times that grab our attention.  How we do the commonplace tasks of our everyday lives is a good test of who we are.  I admired this nurse for the way she infused the small, routine details of her job with caring.  She connected with this patient in a way that was meaningful for both of them.  She brought her soul into those interactions.

Those of us who work in a hospital setting encounter crisis on a daily basis, and even things that would make folks in some other line of work run away in fear can become boring to us, if we let them.  But anything we do can, if we are intentional about it, be done with this awareness of God, this sense of our soul reaching out to connect with others.  Brother Lawrence, a young Carmelite monk in the 17th century, learned to make his kitchen duties an act of love, washing dishes and peeling potatoes to the glory of God.  His experiences were later collected in a book, “Practicing the Presence of God,” that is still offering wisdom to readers today.  He came to understand, as do many I have seen here in the hospital, that no task is insignificant when we choose to do it in love for God and others.

Bless us, Lord, this day with vision.  May this place be a sacred place, a telling place where heaven and earth meet.  Lord, bless the work that we do; bless it, and keep us in Your power.  Amen.  (from “Celtic Daily Prayer”)

-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent


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