Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prayer and Kindness for the Vulnerable

This past week I've been tuned into the vulnerability that comes with illness, the heightened sensitivity one has to being alone or to how present and loving our caregivers are in responding to our vulnerability. In neither the case of my friend nor me is the down time permanent or due to any severe condition, and still the emotionality is there. Even temporary helplessness or constriction in our ability to function can be hard to adjust to, along with the increased need for others to do for us or fill in for us. That's why kindness is especially meaningful, even healing,for patients in the hospital.

One such patient in a nursing home came on the local late night news. It sent shudders through me. If not for the cameras in that facility, it would likely not have come to light. A middle-aged black women who look pretty weathered in her mug shot (she has been arrested) was caught on video wheeling a patient's wheelchair around so hard that the woman was thrown out of it onto the floor. The aide ignored her and proceeded on with whatever she was doing and then left the area. The patient, an 85 year old woman, laid there helpless for minutes before another aide discovered her and got help. The patient's hip was fractured.

The things that people can do to the vulnerable are unimaginable. I thought of my own mother who time and again made clear she never wanted to go to a nursing home. I felt grateful again that she made her transition in her own bed at home, having received extraordinary and loving care in her last weeks. I thought of the 85 y.o. patient with a hip fracture that will probably never mend, her utter helplessness, and how her family must feel knowing of her treatment.

With all the news about the oil in the Gulf coast, I've been thinking about all the marine life that somehow seem more helpless than the humans facing loss of livelihood. I am thankful for all those who are lending their expertise to help.

A Native American sent around an urgent call for prayer for all of nature suffering in the Gulf Coast. I join in that prayer, and add in every single living being and expression of nature that is in a state of acute vulnerability. I am also reminded that vulnerability can come in small every day forms, children in the face of adults, women in the face of men, clients seeking mental health services, people in low status occupations, and how a little kindness can be protective and affirming of all humanity, the vulnerable and those more powerful.

And I pray for that aide in the nursing home, for the healing she needs to address the wound that could lead her into such inhumanity -- some vulnerability of her own.

Please join me in this prayer if you are so moved.

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