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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Giving the Gift of Openness

Word for the Day
Today’s Word:  Open.

            A few days back we experienced a storm.  What the winter weather really amounted to was a lot of wind, some ice and a flake or two of snow.  None-the-less it was a good evening to stay at home for my wife and I, along with a college son.  As with most of the “storms” over the years we planned to watch some kind of movie, stay warm and enjoy one another. However the storm affected out power, so that the power would go off for a moment and then back on, repeating every few minutes. 
            In our day of modern technology we have “satellite TV” so the movie was one we would “rent” from … well, from wherever satellite TV comes from.  But when the power would flicker, our satellite would reset.  I can still see the words on the screen, “Just a few more minutes,” as the satellite was reconnected and our television was synchronized with the satellite. 
            This process took a few minutes, just like the message said.  About the time it was done and our movie was back on the power flickered off, again.  This happened several times so that we never really saw our movie at all.  It was annoying.  And, when I talked to others the next day about the “storm” I shared how annoyed I felt. 
            One of the people I saw next day was one of our hospice patients.  We “small talked” about the weather and the storm.  His power had flickered as well.  I shared my annoyance.  After all, my movie was ruined!
            “Yes,” he said, “I know.  Every time the power would go out my oxygen would go out too.”  He pointed to concentrator which pumped the oxygen through clear plastic tubing to help his compromised lungs breathe. 
            Suddenly I wasn’t as annoyed about missing my movie.
            This has happened to me many times over the years.  I’m annoyed about some little thing in my life which didn’t work out.  And I miss, or almost miss, the genuine challenge in someone else’s experience.
            I think the first many times this happened I committed myself to change.  I would notice others more.  I would see their troubles and feel their hurts.  And maybe that helped, for a bit.  But it still seemed I missed things.  Lots of things.  I couldn’t be this super-chaplain I wanted to be. 
            We humans are created in a special way.  We have skin and muscle on the outside though which no one can see.  So no one can know what we are thinking or feeling, not entirely anyway, unless we tell them.  There is no “super-human” power of perception.  Someone might say, “God can show us.”  Certainly true.  But that’s God, not us.  We still miss it.  We still miss what God says.
            So I’ve come to a new conclusion.  Two, actually.
            First, don’t deny annoyances.  Just keep them in perspective.  It was annoying to miss the movie.  But I shouldn’t make it bigger than it was.  And I make it bigger when I have to tell everyone.  It happened.  It annoyed me.  It’s over.
            Second, be open.  Until now, it wouldn’t have occurred to me what frustration power outages would be for folks with oxygen concentrators.  But somehow I need to come to every person realizing I cannot see through them to know what they are thinking or the frustrations or hurts which have come their way.  All I can do is look them in the eye, ask some pertinent questions (“How did the power outage affect you?” would be a good start in this case), and listen with an open and "unannoyed" mind.
            As I walk with people in hospice or hospital care – or just in life, I’ve come to realize that no one wants a super-chaplain or any super-human to visit.  They don’t want me to be able to see through them and know their thoughts.  I believe they would be annoyed if I could.  They just want someone who will listen to their story, who will care and will travel along with them.  Now, that’s something I can do. 

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