Circle of Care



I think that everyone at some point in time experiences an “aha” moment- in which the purpose of being comes into focus with a clarity that is felt so deeply, so confidently, that it is like glimpsing into the heart and mind of God. I occasionally have such ‘mini-moments’, usually when I am having conversations with other people, and wind up saying something to them that I really need to hear.
Sometimes while I am caring for my patients, when I take the time to ‘go the second (or third) mile’ for the sake of kindness, or when I feel a genuine wellspring of love bubbling over for no overt reason- I realize that my life consists of a holy ‘hollowing out’, and I begin to understand the term “klee kodesh” (holy vessel) at a visceral level. We spend our lives learning how to be part of a circle of care- finding our place, discovering our gifts, and growing into a receptacle that can be simultaneously filling and emptying. At this stage of my life, I am discovering that I am loved, even liked- that people aren’t pretending (at least the important ones aren’t), and that I am allowed to bestow upon myself the same compassion that I freely give without judgement to the dying. Perhaps it is easier to love the dying than it is the living- we expect things out of life, but don’t quite know what to expect out of death. Furthermore, kindness to strangers is usually not as demanding an enterprise. The professional distance, the cloister of non-disclosure prevents those tentative threads of vulnerability from weaving themselves into a tapestry of shared humanity. My struggles have been uniquely mine, and yet the fellowship of similarity, of common vision, of witnessing and participating in the stories of others binds me to heaven and earth and to the God who created them all. “A word of peace, a gentle look- this God’s gift to be shared” says the monk from Weston Priory. I am giving, and yet receiving. I come home after 12 hours, and often feel- though physically weary- strangely full. I look at my beloved Greg- so profoundly grateful that he is here- and give thanks.

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