Even if they don’t say it out loud i can see it on their face as soon as I introduce myself. Damn! Just what I need — somebody who’s going to spout the Bible to me! Here in my part of Colorado we have a lot of what they call “nones”. Those are people who, when asked what their religion is, reply “None”. And, believe me, I see a lot of those people in the hospital. I serve as a chaplain in an Adventist hospital and no, you don’t have to be an Adventist to serve there.
I hear a lot of… “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”, “I don’t like organized religion”, “I guess there’s a God, but I don’t see a lot of evidence of that”. I’ve ministered to Catholic priests and a defrocked Wiccan priest. But, I am determined not to let their attitude affect my attitude.
So, I assure them that however they believe, or don’t believe, is fine with me. I’m just there to see if there’s anything I can do to make their hospital stay a little more bearable. Usually I get an apology and an explanation of why they said what did when I introduced myself. A couple more questions about family support and all those things we learn to ask in CPE and the stories start to pour out and the non-threatening connection is made.
One thing I’ve found to be useful is music lyrics. Some of my favorites are from Jimmy Buffet, The Rolling Stones, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
If someone is upset because they haven’t gotten everything they think they deserve in life I pull out this little gem from the Rolling Stones: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need”. That gets them to thinking — and talking.
Then there’s “According to my watch, the time is now. Breathe in, breathe out, and move on” from Jimmy Buffet’s song about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. Or the introduction to “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “if you smile at me I will understand because we all smile in the same language”.
Music plays a part in healing at the hospital where I serve. We have a volunteer who plays the harp outside (or inside, if the patient wishes) patient rooms and one who plays the guitar. And, as one of the nurses on my unit told me one day, a rock and roll chaplain.