What great opportunities lie ahead for all of you.
You/We have the great opportunity to heal the sick. Like anyone else, we can (and should) be kind and gentle. Like anyone else we can pray for and with others. Like anyone else we can support and contribute to the efforts of people working to heal the sick. But in our case we also touch people physically – with kindness and gentleness. We can often heal the body, and even play a part in the healing of the spirit.
I’m still just overwhelmed by this – by this daily contact with the suffering and need and hope of the world. And it seems such a privilege, such a wonderful thing to talk with a person, examine that person, and then understand what is the problem, why it occurred, and best of all, what to do to manage or heal the problem – and then do it! I well remember the first person whose illness I cured. She was about 50 years old and looked about 60 – a person who’d had a hard life. She had been treated as an outpatient at a major medical center for pneumonia, but the treatment was unsuccessful. I gave her clarithromycin and it worked! We were both very happy.
And so we do countless variations on this – people with diabetes and hypertension and pharyngitis and otitis and asthma and acne and along the way we ask questions like, have you ever been physically or sexually abused? On most days are you mostly happy or mostly sad? Is there anything else? What questions do you have?
Here is something one of my students wrote in her journal: “When she admitted to having thoughts of killing herself it just added to the weight in my heart … when we prayed it was the first time I participated in spiritual care. I didn’t know what to do because while Lupe was praying I started to cry, but tried to stop because I had to get through the rest of the day.”
So we work to heal the sick and lift up the oppressed and as we work to provide holistic care to as many people as possible, we must remember that there are others waiting to be seen and if we take the time to do a 100% job in all dimensions with one person, another person may get nothing. So we work smarter and faster and learn to deal with priorities, but still, there is much to do, much left undone. – there is a deep ache in the world, a groaning inwardly while they wait, while we wait.
Let me read to you what I wrote in my journal last week – about Albert Schweitzer:
- Schweitzer suffered from major depression while he was in a French POW camp. Through his depression he became aware of “the fellowship of those who bear the mark of pain” – and he further realized that all people bear pain – and in this way (and other ways) he understood that we are One.
- He discovered that the ideal is the human capacity to experience and express reverence for the miracle of life … and to act on that reverence.
- The greatest happiness is through seeking and finding ways to serve. And he discovered that people who set out to do good should not expect others to help move boulders out of the way; in fact, others will sometimes move boulders into the path of those trying to good.
Like Dr. Schweitzer we all see things that need to be done.
Who and what will you see? People who are hungry? People who are thirsty - who thirst for freedom and justice? People who are strangers in a strange land? People who are naked – naked of dignity and of hope? People who are sick – sick in body or sick in heart? People who are in prison – in prison like Paul or in prisons of a different sort. What will you see and what will you DO.
Here is something else from my journal – about a woman in prison …
A middle-aged woman came into the clinic today. Her chief complaints were diabetes and asthma. The promotora who saw her in intake asked two depression screening questions and on the basis of the woman’s answers then administered a more complete depression screen, which also was positive. When I saw her she said that “something happened” when she was 8 and 9 years old. It turned out that she had been systematically molested when she was a child. She had not told anyone other than her mother until today. One of her children has been asking her, “Mommy, why don’t you ever hug me?” The answer, which she hasn’t been able to say, is that she cannot. There is something about physical affection between family members… because, naturally, it was a family member who molested her. She and I talked for awhile and it was intense there in exam room 4. When we were done, I told her I was glad she came in and that she had come to the right place. I gave her medications for the diabetes, asthma, and depression (or more accurately, PTSD). She’ll see our psychiatrist next week...
There is much left undone by the ones who went before us, by the Apostle Paul, by Maimonides, by Albert Schweitzer, by Mother Teresa, by countless people – and these people, dear ones, are our colleagues, our brothers and sisters in faith and works. They would ask that we carry on; that we see the poor and the afflicted and that we do something about them – that we do something about the individuals who cross our paths AND that we create even greater opportunities – programs for adult survivors of abuse, for children whose potential is swallowed up in the hard life of poverty, for prostitutes, for drug addicts, for people seeking to break free from so many different prisons. So much left undone.
'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' Photo: The students had a shower for this Karen woman who was pregnant. You can see the guys are having a great time.
You/we have the rare opportunity to heal the sick. To relieve suffering. To help the world be a better place. To be a part of the great dream of mercy and human dignity.
I’ll end with the Oath of Maimonides* (gender-adjusted)
The eternal providence has appointed me to watch over the life and health of Thy creatures. May the love for my art actuate me at all times; may neither avarice nor miserliness, nor thirst for glory or for a great reputation engage my mind; for the enemies of truth and philanthropy could easily deceive me and make me forgetful of my lofty aim of doing good to Thy children.
May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.
Grant me the strength, time and opportunity always to correct what I have acquired, always to extend its domain; for knowledge is immense and the spirit of a person can extend indefinitely to enrich itself daily with new requirements.
Today we can discover our errors of yesterday and tomorrow we can obtain a new light on what we think ourselves sure of today. Oh, God, Thou has appointed me to watch over the life and death of Thy creatures; here am I ready for my vocation and now I turn unto my calling.