We in the health care industry, are faced almost daily, with situations where mending broken hearts is sometimes more important than mending broken bodies; where no pill or medicine will help, and where there is no “one size fits all” answer.
The Signature healthcare model emphasizes the spiritual as being just as important as the physical. This in no way diminishes the importance of caring for the physical, but it recognizes that a person is more than just a body. In the Biblical perspective, we are spiritual beings that live in a body, and the simple truth is that you cannot neglect one aspect of our being without affecting the other.
I remember a man who almost never smiled. Then one day, I was talking to him, and as I was leaving, I casually said, “I’ll see you later, OK buddy?” Immediately, a big smile crossed his lips as he said to me, “How did you know that ‘Bud’ was my name?” It seems that all of his life, he had been called “Bud,” and hearing that name brought joy to his heart. Now when he sees me, he smiles, because I think he sees me as someone who knows him. While this discovery did not fix his physical problems, it began the journey toward mending his broken heart.
One day. a little girl’s puppy got her favorite doll and mangled one of its arms. When the little girl saw the damage the puppy had done, she was devastated. She grabbed the doll with the mangled arm and ran to her mother. “Mom always knows what to do,” she reasoned. With tears streaming down her face, she begged her mother to fix the doll, but it was just beyond repair.
As the mother tried to console her daughter, the child pulled away from her and ran into the garage where her father was working. “Daddy can fix anything” she thought as she burst through the door and ran crying into his arms. “Please Daddy, can you put Dolly’s arm back on,” she cried, but the look on her father’s face belied the fact that this was something he just could not fix. He took his daughter into his arms and told her that he would get her another doll, “just like Dolly,” but that was not what she wanted.
She pushed away from her father and ran down the street to the church. As she ran through the doors, she crashed into the legs of the pastor, who was just leaving for the day. He knew the little girl and her family, so when he saw the tears, he lifted her into his arms and asked her, “What’s so terrible that has caused all of this crying?”
Sobbing the sobs that only the deepest hurt can bring, the little girl replied, “Is this the place that mends broken hearts?”
When I read this story, I find myself wondering how I would answer that question. Jesus called the lonely and downcast to Him with a promise of healing, but do we, or can we serve in that same capacity?
The biggest enemy of our elders and senior citizens, is the loneliness and the sense of uselessness they experience daily. We in America focus so much on the physical aspects of healing that we often overlook the fact that one the biggest detriments to healing among the aged, is a lack of purpose; a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.
Whether you are in healthcare, pastoral care, or you just plain care, what would you say if that little girl’s question had been addressed to you? Or for that matter, what would you say to a friend or relative whose life expresses that question?
Perhaps more to the point, at one time or another, that question is presented to all of us. How do you respond to it?
Chaplain Fred Jeans,
Kenilworth Care And Rehab