June 9, 2015
A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.
No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.
This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE:
HANDLE WITH CARE.
His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.
We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.
The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.
— Naomi Shihab Nye, from Red Suitcase.
When I think of chaplaincy and spiritual care, this poem always comes into my mind, especially the stanza “We’re not going to be able to live in this world if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing with one another.” How many times do we go through life haphazardly not paying attention to those around us or how our actions will affect others? This father knows he’s carrying precious cargo even though he’s not marked. Do we realize that we are carrying precious cargo as we hold the sacredness of people’s stories that they have shared with us?
The mission statement of Bishop Anderson House is to advance healing by ministering to the sick and those who care for them. That’s a tall order to “advance healing” – how exactly do we do that when we don’t prescribe medications, can’t cut someone open with a scalpel, or help someone learn to speak again after a stroke? We do it by honoring the Divine within them and hearing them into speech as they share their stories. There is a sacredness to the work we do. The Hasidic tradition reminds us that God created humankind because God loves stories. Just think about all the stories you know – stories of your family, your first kiss, the first time you lost someone you loved. There is a sacredness in each of these stories whether they bring joy or sadness.
I like to think of a part of the work of Bishop Anderson House is to be a sacred storehouse of stories – a container where healing is brought to the broken and wounded. Where hope can be found, even when it seems all hope is lost.
In the beginning of my tenure as Executive Director, I hope to begin to hear many of your stories as I get to know Bishop Anderson House better. I don’t have plans to come in and overturn the tables: as my grandfather used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” What I do plan to do is listen and to work together in community to discern what might need to be tweaked to make our lay chaplain training program stronger, our partnership with Rush and the other hospitals we partner with stronger, and build upon the relationships with not only the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago and the Lutheran Synod, but other ecumenical and interfaith partners.
I am deeply grateful for the shoulders that I am standing on to begin this work particularly Jay Risk’s leadership these last 12 years. Like you, I will be grieving his departure. He has given me many gifts these last few weeks working together. I hope after he enjoys some well deserved rest we can entice him to come back as executive director emeritus to teach didactics and to continue to be involved with Bishop Anderson House in those areas he is passionate about.
My office door is always open and I would love to meet you. Feel free to stop by anytime you are in the Illinois Medical District, or call me at (312) 563-4824 and we can schedule a time to meet. I would welcome opportunities to speak in your faith community about the good work of the Bishop Anderson House or to meet for coffee one-on-one. I look forward to hearing your story!