By David Lichter
As you can see, we have organized the blog postings of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in one place as a Vision edition. While this was intended to let our readers access them more easily, or maybe even read them a first time, it is also an occasion to look at this brief history as it was captured by you, our chaplains, over these early weeks.
As I reread them, I am filled with awe, amazement, grief and gratitude as the writers poured out their hearts, sharing what they saw around them, in their colleagues and peers, and in the patients, residents, and families they encountered. These posts remain fresh with fears, musings, misgivings, and raw honesty. They were all so helpful at the time, and can continue to be so. Join me in the exercise of picking out a couple that really struck and helped you. Here are two that stay with me.
I appreciated John Matalski’s observation — no, John’s confession — that “wounded healer” rather than “hero” most aptly fits our clinical colleagues and our many associates who daily return to their responsibility. As John noted, “But rarely does the vulnerability of these caregivers prevent them from being the kind of healers they are called to be. They stifle the urges to fear, flee, fight, or freeze. They come to work, day after day, and armor themselves up with PPE and hearts full of gratitude.” John ends by calling us all back to who we are: “During this COVID pandemic, we are all keenly aware of our own vulnerability, with our sense of being ‘wounded healers.’ As such, we are healers, not heroes. We do best what we have been called to do – embody the healing mission of Jesus Christ, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person (including ourselves) in a loving and caring way.” Amen, John!
Perhaps that call to mission is what has most impressed and sustained me, and continues to sustain me, in these weeks. The weekly COVID listening/resource sessions remain sacred time and space to listen to and hold one another (virtually) up, sustaining each other in the too often isolating moments of ministry, or in the now agonizing uncertainties of job loss or indefinite furloughs and all the financial and emotional turmoil and suffering these circumstances cause our members. I pray, if you are reading this and you are experiencing this pain, that you reach out to us at the NACC office or take advantage of our Listening Hearts program or participate in our listening sessions. Don’t be alone in this. As John wrote above, let our members “do best what we have been called to do – embody the healing mission of Jesus Christ, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person (including ourselves) in a loving and caring way.”
While trying to find ways to interpret and live in the present, I loved Ruth Jandeska’s reflection on the term VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. “Volatility refers to fluctuations and turbulence, uncertainty refers to future events that cannot be foreseen, complexity refers to the interconnection of the many variables, and ambiguity refers to lack of clarity,” Ruth wrote. “While these terms are related, they do represent different areas of an environment.” I was not familiar with the term.
However, I really appreciated Ruth’s repurposing the acronym to Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility, to be “agents of positive change and create a future amid chaos.” She beautifully linked this reflection to the apostles after the resurrection, when their world was also VUCA, but soon experienced the Risen Lord. She leaves it to our own theological reflection to see how the apostles gained new vision, understanding, clarity and agility in proclaiming the Risen Christ in the midst of opposition and resistance.
I appreciated her call to you and me: “What are you holding on to during these challenging times? What practices or rituals are helping you to remain centered and whole amid the chaos? What is helping you rekindle your sense of mission and purpose in life?”
These questions remain central to spirituality as well. I hope you can take the time to peruse these articles again and latch on to one or two to reignite your spirit and calm your soul.