Saturday, January 17, 2015

Use Me Instead

There is something powerful happening with social media right now.  

In response to the atrocity of the North Miami Beach police department, using the mugshots of young black men as target practice for their snipers, some ELCA clergy organized and started a movement.  Including photos of ourselves in clerical collars with the hashtag, #usemeinstead, on social media.  And we are mailing our pictures to the North Miami Beach PD.  And it has expanded to include clergy of other faiths and other people who are interested in the cause.

But I am so angry that this is even a thing. I cannot believe that police officers are using pictures of actual human beings to shoot for target practice.  In the forehead. This is unconscionable.  I cannot believe, literally, I cannot believe, that this was agreed upon as an acceptable practice by a police department.

It is unconscionable to look into the face of another human being and shoot them between the eyes for sport.  And yet, it is happening to our African American brothers in Florida. It happens every day in our country when the crime is "being black" and someone in a position of privilege is wielding a weapon or the force of the law over someone else.  

I will never know what it is like to be a person of color. As a white, middle class woman with privilege as a result of my social location, I damn well better be listening to my brothers and sisters of color.  And praying alongside and marching alongside for cultural change.  Racism is alive and well in our world. As a member of the clergy, I believe it is my sacred task to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God" and this means being willing to be on the front lines for justice and peace in this world. It means living into an incarnational understanding of what it is to be in relationship with God and God's people.

This movement is about clergy and others symbolically putting their bodies between bullets and black bodies. Because of my privilege, both in having white skin and in being a clergy person, I know that I am not likely to be shot.  It is because of my white privilege that I can afford to take this bold stance.

But in a country that dehumanizes and criminalizes based on the color of one's skin, it is far too easy to shoot if the person on the other side of the gun doesn't look like you. It is harder to look out and see yourself in that person.  So maybe if these cops are using white pastors, priests, rabbis, monks and nuns for target practice, they will realize that they are practicing shooting humans. That somehow, those people in positions of power who dehumanize and criminalize black bodies will make the connection that there is a person with a beating heart and a soul and a spirit. And then not fucking shoot them between the eyes.

Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy on us all.

Monday, January 05, 2015

What does a chaplain do anyway?

A.Hanson, Minnesota 2014
What does a chaplain do anyway?

I get this question a lot in the hospital as well as outside the hospital.  The answer is that I do tons of different things.

Here is a snapshot of what I have done in the last week:

Discussing a patient's wishes for their medical care should they be unable to speak for themselves. Helping them to complete paperwork to appoint a healthcare agent (MDPOA).

Brought a teddy bear to a toddler in the ER who fell off her bed and knocked out several teeth.

Did detective work to figure out the identity of a John Doe patient in the ER. Called county sheriff and asked them to send an officer to the listed address. Found a family member and met them at the doors of the ER.  Connected them with healthcare staff.

Found a buddhist monk to visit a buddhist patient.

Read psalms and sang hymns to an agitated elderly patient at the request of a nurse, to assist nursing staff in calming the patient enough for treatment.

Had a discussion with the husband of a patient who was dying.  The patient's husband wished she could be at home. Talked about how to make the hospital more home-like. Advocated for patient and family with nursing staff to make these wishes happen (patient's own pajamas and blanket, and being held by her husband).

Sat with a family for hours while doctors attempted to stabilize their loved one who had suffered cardiac arrest. Prayed with them, held their hands, and brought them water.

Prayed with a family whose matriarch had just died.

Visited a teenager who had an accident that left him paralyzed.

Blessed the Cath labs at the request of the staff after they had experienced several tough deaths there.

Served as a designated requester for Donor Alliance, to ask for consent for tissue and cornea donation, from the family of a recently deceased patient.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

O Emmanuel/O God with Us

A.Hanson, 2012
O Emmanuel, you bring hope for all people: Come and teach us the way of love, O Gracious God. 

In my role as public minister, I interact with many people who believe that faith in something greater than themselves is foolish. But I guess that in spite of how foolish it might seem, I would rather have hope than despair for our world.

I see many tough and terrible things, but I also see many beautiful and redeeming things.  I believe in a God that brings hope, despite all evidence to the contrary, because I do see bits of Gospel and hope and goodness in the midst of all the brokenness.

Blessings on your Christmas season!

Monday, December 22, 2014

O Rex Gentium/O King of Nations

A.Hanson, 2009. 
O hope of all nations, and their desire, you are the foundation, you are that which makes two into one: Come and save the creature whom you have fashioned from clay. 

I think a lot about human beings as creatures in my work in the hospital.  I see the most basic animalistic functions happen: screams of pain, gasping for breath, bleeding.

I have never thought about asking God to "save the creature whom you have fashioned from clay", because that slides too close to asking for a miracle.  But as I reflect on this Advent, I wonder if "saving" is much bigger than I might imagine. Saving might mean just saving from this life. It could mean death.  I need to sit with this idea a little more.

O Rex Gentium, O King of Nations, you created us from the beginning of all that is. Come and save us. O Rex Gentium, O King of Nations. Come.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Why I love my job…and hate it too.

A.Hanson, 2013
I love my job as a hospital chaplain. I get to be present with God's beloved people at all stages of their lives.  I get to be present at the beginning, middles, and ends of so many lives. 

I hate my job too.  I will meet you at the doors of the Emergency Department and escort you to a windowless room that is euphemistically called the "Compassion Room" and tell you that I will find the doctor to speak with you. To deliver the horrible news that you never imagined. 

I love my job because I get to hold the presence of the holy in unimaginable situations.  But I also hate my job because I will tell you that I was standing alongside your loved one praying when they coded and were pronounced dead in a sterile trauma room. I hate this because you should have been the one who stood with them, not me. 

I love my job because I get to hear so many stories of love and families and travel and adventures. I get to be a part of your life for a little bit of time, and that is such an honor.  

But I hate my job because some of the most intimate moments of your life are invaded by strangers.  By chaplains and social workers and nurses and doctors, and we are all kind, but you never wanted to see us. Not now. 

I love my job because I drive away from the hospital at night and I often cry.  I shed tears because of the injustice of it all.  Because of the beauty of your life or death. Because I grieve along with you.  But I hate my job because while your entire world changed in an instant, I have an extremely skewed sense of what is normal, and I know that tomorrow will hold another tragedy and another death and another trauma for another family.  And I will cry alongside them too. 

I love my job because I will sit with you in the darkest moments of your life.  I will hold your hand and walk with you.  I will provide you with information and guidance about things you never wanted to know.  And I do so because I love you even though I have not met you. 

I hate my job because I have to talk with you about mortuaries and organ and tissue donation and coroners and final conversations to have with your loved one and letting go. I hate my job because sometimes I have to be the one to tell you that it is time to leave the hospital because this is the start of a new normal. Even though you wish that the world could stop and you could freeze this moment of time forever.  

I love my job because I am truly working in the midst of the world and in the trenches where God can be found. And I get to proclaim with my pastoral presence and comforting touch and gentle words that God is here and death is not the end.  And that you can borrow the strength of a merciful God when it feels like you cannot go on. 

But I hate my job because I have the same questions that you do.  "How could God let this happen?"  "Why didn't God heal them?"  "Where is the justice?"  

But I love my job because I promise to sit with you and go with you wherever you need to go. I am not afraid of your pain or illness or body fluids or trauma.  I love my job because it is my calling.