Is 42:1-4, 6-7
A Simple Handshake
In one of my chaplain internships I worked at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. I was so nervous to enter the rooms of the patients and say, “Hello I am a chaplain here, is there anyway I can serve you?” Now almost 16 years later, I enter the homes and hospital/nursing rooms of patients with a different kind of introduction. However, there is always a little space of “what if they don’t want to see me?” anxiety lurking beneath the calm exterior.
At that first internship I was asked to work with a seasoned chaplain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, affectionately called NICU. The babies in this unit were in some kind of trouble; many were very premature or were born with a life threatening beginning. I was very nervous about this assignment. I had never given birth to a baby and my comfort zone with babies with serious physical problems was below the charting line.
However, I was given the most wonderful chaplain who remembered her early days in the NICU and she gently nudged me into comfort with her kindness. One memory sticks out in my mind. It was the day Cathy brought me to the crib side of a baby that weighed just a little over one pound. She said after I cleaned and scrubbed my hands, “Here just put your pointer finger near her hand, let her make contact with you.” And I did, I slowly and carefully put my very sterile pointer finger near her tiny hand…and I waited.
This little one grabbed my finger and held on. She did not seem the least bit afraid of me in this context, even though I weighed a good bit more than her. My mentor said, “She senses your spirit and knows you are okay.” Even now it makes me somewhat teary. What an amazing God, who formed this little one in the womb and that moment, was present in the simple connection of a very small fist and one very much larger pointer finger!
Who are we anyway, that God should form us, call us by name and call us to be present to the needs and gifts of others? Again, I ask myself as a baptized Christian, who does God call me to be, to serve and to become? As this week unfolds, I shall look for the Spirit to guide me, be in the hands of the very small or the hand grasp of those who are very old.