Last month, as I caught up on e-mails, I listened to this wonderful Fresh Air interview with hospice chaplain Kerry Egan.
Interviewer Terry Gross says, "You write about how about one of the things you want to do is hold open a space of prayer or meditation or reflection when someone doesn't have the energy or strength to keep the walls from collapsing."
It occurs to me that many of our jobs require much the same thing, but of course, in a very different way than that of the hospice chaplain. In other settings, we hold open this space much more silently.
A bit later, Egan says, "And what it really means is to model a sense of in the midst of this storm of emotion, you can stay calm, right? It does not have to overtake you. And you would be surprised at how powerful that is for someone else, just to be with someone who is maintaining a sense of presence, of not being in the past, of not being in the future, of literally being present, you know, in the presence. But that has a way of calming people down."
Yes, modeling calm behavior--another way of keeping the walls from collapsing.
Each time I have dealt with an upset person (often a student), I have tried to model this calm behavior--while at the same time wondering how people get through life with such a hair-trigger outrage response. I have wondered if people have changed, if I'm just coming in contact with more stressed out people, if once I hung out with a more laid-back bunch.
But it's also clear to me that we have more people ready to express their rage much more quickly than they once did. Yesterday I heard the news stories about the guy who drove from North Carolina with his shotgun, thinking (because of a false news story) that he was going to liberate children being held in a sex ring at a DC pizza place. I thought, who does these things?
Most of us won't be moved to that kind of action, but more of us these days seem to be suffering from extreme moods. And those of us who are Christians can help to bring peace to the world by some of the hospice chaplain actions that Egan describes.
I look forward to reading the book--and I see a window of time approaching where I might do it. Perhaps in time for the new year, and some resolutions of a different sort!
feeling the feelings…
11 months ago