Life in community

The hospital seems like its own little orbit or community, and sometimes I think we should have our own ZIP code.

Because, while the faces of patients and staff change frequently throughout the day, most if not all of us in the building are focused on one thing: serving the sick, and/or serving those who serve the sick.

The kitchen worker may not share the skill set of a doctor, but in a roundabout way she’s serving patients.

One learning curve for me from my previous job is that now I operate more with a group and less like a free agent. As a journalist for 20 years, I worked pretty much on my own, with guidance from editors, but I made a million decisions a day based on what I knew on my beat.

Nowadays, while I do visit patients and families alone, I work closely with four other chaplains as we coordinate schedules and pray for people and wrestle through hard things.

All the honesty and soul searching–with myself and them–at times feels constricting. “Didn’t I/we talk about this before?” We fight and yell and point fingers. We cry. We laugh.

Then our supervisor stirs us up even more.

Community is hard. Friends of mine who live in intentional faith communities speak of its difficulty and joy in the same sentence.

On the joy side, it’s freeing to spin the same wheels, to rehash the same old conversations as we search for clarity. I’m getting to know the others in such a way that trust develops and so, it’s easier to confide in them and be myself. We have many things in common, and that builds bonds. Our quirks add humor to discussion of heavy things.

The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber coined the phrase “I and thou,” meaning I find myself in relationship– you for me, and you in me; and in God we find the Eternal Thou.

It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s beautiful.


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