For most of the time I have been working as a chaplain at Stroger Hospital of Cook County, its predecessor, the old Cook County Hospital, has been under renovation. The recent reopening of the façade of this building as a hotel gives all staff a chance to reflect on the past and how it remains embedded in the present even though times are changing and change is accelerating.
The photo shows the floor of the hotel lobby. It is the original floor of the old County Hospital. I think of the scores of disadvantaged people of all nationalities and backgrounds who walked across that floor, seeking help, seeking care, and seeking respect for what they have gone through. These, of course, are basic human rights that our patients did not always receive in the society outside the hospital. And that legacy of injustice is embedded in the present just as the hospital floor is embedded in the expensive new hotel.
As one who seeks to minister to patients and families who are different than me in many ways, I must be conscious of past injustices they have faced. I must be aware that the legacy of inequality and persecution black people have endured is not only in the past but present in every interaction.
Reflecting on how I am responsible for everyone in my community no matter what our differences are is unsetting and uneasy. But in the act of reflection I hope to pierce the ego that sees me as more precious and more important than anyone else. Destroying this mistaken perception is what patients and families help me do every day. And for the chance to reflect and learn I am grateful.