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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Friday, October 11, 2013


Every two weeks, before our IDT (Interdisciplinary Team) meeting, I, as chaplain, am asked to lead a brief meditation and/or prayer that honors and reflects our work with our Hospice patients. This can be challenging because the meditation/prayer to be fully inclusive of a broad spectrum of spirituality and the great variety of its expression.

And, it has to be brief. Very brief. Because, well, we have lots of work to do.

This past Wednesday, I felt called to offer this meditation, which I want to share with you.

This is a meditation on humility.

Some of you know that our Ms. Conroy is a member of the Anamchara Fellowship, an Episcopal religious order which tries to live out a monastic life following Celtic Spirituality. It is part of the new wave of communal religious life in which geographical boundaries are bridged through creative adaptation, using new technology like Skype and FaceBook and Listservs.

On the first anniversary of her election as Abbess of the Community, I asked her what lesson she had learned about having religious, institutional power and authority.

She smiled and said,
"Humility. I've learned that I am not that powerful. I can't possibly do all the things that need to be done. Empowering others to do the work of community is the only way it works. Power is just an illusion, like security. We only have control over what is before us and the best way to use power is to be the best we can be and help others be the best they can be, identifying and utilizing the skills and gifts and abilities they have in order that they might help still others be the best they can be."
A few days ago, as she was recuperating from surgery, I opened a card from one of her colleagues which asked, "Learned your lesson yet?" We both chuckled. I took the opportunity to ask her, "Well, have you learned any lesson from this illness and surgery?"

She smiled and said,
"Humility. I've learned that I am even less powerful than I thought. I've learned that there is great power in admitting that you are powerless and letting those who are skilled and knowledgeable at what they do, do their thing. Whether I think I'm powerful or completely powerless, truth is that I'm neither. I just am who I am. I can only control what I can control. It seems the universe is always teaching me about humility."
 She's right, of course.

Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. The rain falls on the righteous and the unjust and the sun shines on the good as well as the evil. And still, the world continues to spin, all on its own.

We seem unable to control much of anything - in our own lives as well as the lives of those we serve. Right now, much of our team is out with one illness or another - everything from a broken wrist to a TIA to a blocked coronary artery to abdominal surgery.

We are, as Ms. Conroy says, "one red hot mess."

And yet, patients are being seen and cared for with skill and dedication. They are living and dying with as much dignity as we can provide for them.  Staff are going the extra mile to help.

The Hospice Team is comprised of nurses - case managers and per diem - nurses aids, doctors, social workers, chaplains, administrators, program and clinical directors, medical records, admissions, bereavement counselors, educators.

No one person can do another's job. No one person can do the entire job of patient care by him or herself. Working together, we help each other be the best we can possibly be so that our patients get the best possible care we can provide.

Sometimes, that's in simple little ways. The way Susan always texts us with admissions or deaths. The way Mary makes sure we know about funeral arrangements. The way Joan spells out the patients name on the report line so we can understand even through her thick Maryland accent.

That all takes the humility of knowing that we are not in control of everything. We can only control what is before us and do the best with what we've got, being mindful to help others be the best that they can be.

And that, my friends, is my prayer for this team this morning. That we will know true humility which is not, as one wise person said, 'thinking less of yourself', but 'thinking of yourself less'.

When we live with humility, we often discover the secret of were true power lies.  Amen.


Kirkepiscatoid said...


Kay & Sarah said...

Mrs. Conroy is a very wise woman.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...


8thday said...

I have been meaning to come back to this post and leave a comment. You wrote it in reference to a particular circumstance (I think) but it turned something very deep in me regarding something else. I just wanted to say thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, 8th