Friday, October 27, 2006

The Little Boy from Birmingham

Yesterday was an amazing day as I spent the afternoon visiting some of our members who are now in nursing homes. One of our newest members, Eddie, went with me.

Eddie is someone in whose words and actions I often hear and see the living God. Yesterday was no different.

Our first stop was a visit with a woman who has recently had to trade an independent life in her own home for a dependent life in a nursing facility. The change has not been easy. She misses the food she used to eat, the home she helped to build, and her neighbors. She wants badly to go home, and she is depressed.

Eddie was amazing with her, however. He was the "wounded healer" who was able to minister to her in a powerful way. He listened carefully to her words of sadness and complaint. He wished her joy when she spoke of darkness. He reminded her of how precious life is when she said she simply wanted to die.

When we got in the car, Eddie said, "Pastor Donna, we have to go back there soon. We need to spend an entire afternoon with her. We need to get her out of her bed and into a place where she can simply feel the sun on her face. We need to make time to go and listen to her -- listen for several hours." He continued to explain how he knows exactly how she is feeling because he has been placed in a hospital when he did not want to be there. He knows what it is like to have "people caring for you who don't really care about anything but getting paid." He knows what it is like to need only a little sunlight on your face. And, most importantly, he knows how hard it is to find someone who will spend time doing nothing else but listening.

Eddie taught me more about pastoral care yesterday than any course or textbook has ever taught me. He taught me much about how it is not the big things that matter -- but the ordinary things -- the things that are so extraordinary in today's world.

Eddie then made me laugh for hours. On our final stop we sang to a church member living in nursing home -- a church member who does not remember a lot but who can sing every word to "Jesus Loves Me." And when we got into the car we kept singing different songs.

Eddie is not from the United States, and English is not his first language. Chinese is the language he most readily speaks and writes. Yesterday, he requested a song saying, "Pastor Donna, do you know the words to 'The Little Boy from Birmingham?'" I responded by asking if he meant Birmingham, Alabama. He responded with an emphatic, "no." And, I soon realized that the song he was requesting was not about a boy in Birmingham but rather about a "child in Bethlehem!"

I cannot believe I actually get paid to do my job. What an extraordinary privilege I have been given.

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