Thursday, October 27, 2011

We are not the 99

Couple of weeks ago my wife Jen, my daughter, Maya and I were walking around downtown Indy when we saw a mob of picketers circling the block of major businesses shouting “we are the 99. We are the 99. We are the 99.” Perhaps you have seen these trending protestors starting in New York and hitting every major city in the U.S. Their slogan is “Occupy Wall Street.”

This group has recognized that the 99% of Americans seem to be decreasing in salary and financial stability, while the 1% of Americans is getting rich at historic rates. The protestors hope to draw attention to the greed of the 1% that has so greatly affected the 99%. Their goal is not to overthrow capitalism, but to create change that draws attention to the selfish hoarding of the rich at the expense of everyone else.

I have not participated in these protests, (nor do I plan to) but I find myself agreeing with their cause. Throughout the Bible, God warns us through his prophets that obtaining wealth at the expense of others is a great crime of injustice. In fact, we are told if we have two coats we ought to share with those who have none. Scripture recognize that greed, or the love of money, is the root of all evil. So in many ways I agree with the movement.

However, I tend to think that these protestors have too small of a view. These protestors claim they are the 99% and are due their share. But if we broaden our scope and begin thinking globally we discover a horrifying reality. We are not the 99% in the world, we are the 1%. If you have a car, a computer, spare food in the fridge, and spare change lying around anywhere, if you have a television, and more clothes than what you are wearing you are among the 1% in the world.

We have so easily spotted the greed of others and have been blind to our own. If the 1% in the U.S. get rich off the working 99%, how much more true have we the U.S. gotten rich off the rest of the world. Just as King David so easily spotted the sin in Nathan’s parable of the poor shepherd being robbed of his one and beloved sheep from the rich land owner, but blind to see the sin of his adultery(2 Samuel 12), we too have neglected to look at our own greed and selfishness and repent.

We are the guilty 1%. We have obtained mass amounts of food at the expense of poor laborers, we have the latest trends at the expense of factory workers, and we have the coolest shoes at the expense of child slaves. We are guilty, and we deserve even more judgment than what we have casted upon others. It is time that we repent, that we reward the workers, that we lift up the poor, that we surrender our impossible standard of living, and turn to God or else God will encircle us, he will protest us, and who will be able to stand against him?

Friday, October 7, 2011

tragedy, tragedy, and then some more

I spent a semester in CPE where I studied and worked at a local hospital.  I kept a loosely organized journal of unimpressive poems, and a recording of my emotions.  What follows is from this journal with some details and names changed to protect patient identities.
Day 2
My first full day on duty in the hospital serving as a chaplain. Today I owe all the thanks to Kim Smith. I sat down to have dinner with her at 5:00pm, but I did not get a chance to finish my meal until 9:10pm. I did not get to go to sleep until 5:30am.

It started with a death of a 94 year old woman who was still fighting for her independence. She left this world the way she wanted, doing what she wanted. She was having a pace maker replaced when she passed. I walked into the procedure room, prayed for the doctors and asked God to bless the deceased all with the careful guidance of Kim. I offered prayer, a word of encouragement for the doctors and nurses, than I began searching for her family.

Her son with his wife came in after the police tracked him down. He was not surprised by the news of his mother and fights to hold it together. I show him his mother’s body and we have a moment of silence. I help them with paper work, and send them home. Kim also goes home.

My pager goes off again. A young man has a massive heart attack. I meet the family when they arrive and they are all too familiar with the routine as their family has had several heart attacks. I lead them to the waiting room surprised by their flippant candor. I sit with them only briefly because my pager goes off again.

A man had a massive hemorrhage in his brain. He is older and so is his girlfriend/roommate. She hands me the insurance card, I copied it and I lead her over to the waiting room. The situation goes from bad to worse. The man’s sister arrives; I lead her to where I already took his roommate. Both women seem really close to the man. As we are talking they announce a code blue over the intercom, it is still for a moment, then I get another page.

I find out the man with the hemorrhage was the one that has coded and I am asked to stay with the family. I wait with them until I get another page. A man is being rushed to the ER because he had been hit by a train.

I excuse myself from the two ladies and promise I will return. As I rush to the ER I know that I am no where ready for this, but I hardly have time to even think. The wheel the man in and there is blood everywhere. I have never passed out before, but I feel as though I could. The man is a John Doe, until I find a Mexican residency card on him. The man is surprisingly somewhat conscious but speaks no English. The doctors continue to work on him. With not sufficient information, and nothing for me to do, I go back to the two women waiting for their sister and roommate.

After sometime the women are able to go see the man, though he is unconscious. I intend to go in with them but I get the sixth page of the night. I tell them that I will be back. The man who was hit by a train has family that just arrived. The police found them by the tracks no too far from where the man was hit. No one speaks any English and there seems to be no Spanish translator around. The police officer speaks little Spanish and tells the doctor and me that this is the man’s family. The doctor tells the officer that we cannot know that unless they have some kind of picture I.D. The officer tells the doctor that they were with the mad, and the ad got drunk and upset and took off down the railroad tracks, and assures the doctor this is his family. However, the doctor makes a sarcastic remark that there are probably hundreds of drunk Mexicans wondering around that night and there is no way he will be convinced it is his family without a picture. The officer gets offended at this and the doctor and officer are now standing chest to chest shouting syllables more than words. I and a nurse get between them, and I tell the officer that the doctor is a jerk (even though I don’t know him) but if he can take the family back home to get a picture and bring them back this will all be settled.

The family returns with a picture. By the time they arrive their son/brother is out of surgery and now in intensive care. Both his legs were amputated.

I return to the women and find out they both already went home to get some rest. It was a long night. I am exhausted. I did not have any time to think about what to do or to evaluate my decisions, the night was so hectic I was merely responding, praying, and listening. I was nervous about how I would handle pain, and God has baptized me into fire. Even now I don’t have the mind to reflect on what happen, I just want to get in bed with my wife and sleep because I do this all again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

God, grace, guts.

In the fall and winter of 2008 -2009 I spent a semester in CPE where I studied and worked at a local hospital. I kept a loosely organized journal of unimpressive poems, and a recording of my emotions. What follows is from this journal with some details and names changed to protect patient identities.

First Night on Call

I can only wait quietly with my eyes held low toward a pile of books on the floor. I wait and listen quietly for a voice of comfort; I wait to hear the voice of God who is close by. As I listen I hear outside in the dark night the sound of constant rain that seems to be content with continuing for decades. I hear the sounds of tires moving across the rain soaked streets splashing water out to the sides of the road. My soul is strangely listening for the sounds of pain, the sound of sirens, and the sound of my hospital pager on my black belt.

It has only been quiet but the quiet has been a loud build up of anxiety. I wait with new eyes and new understanding of the inevitability of our world. I now have a glimpse of the pain that families endure due to tragedy on a daily bases. I have had moments of understanding some of the pain that haunts our cities. I have an opportunity to know the people that we are removed from in daily life. All these feelings come before my first full as a student chaplain.

Our life is background noise so we can avoid the reality of our own lives. We tune out our connections with the world. We busy ourselves from knowing, loving, and helping because we are afraid of the reality of pain that exists in this world.

All this I nervously contemplate while I wait with my enemy and my friend the pager. The pager is my friend because it forces me to rely on God as I wait for its sounding. The hospital forces me to heal my own wounds so that I may be ready to help heal others. This pager has brought me to prayer. It is my enemy because it steals away any sense of control and power. It is my enemy because I so desperately want to sleep, but I cannot. The pager is my friend and my enemy.

The night continues and the pager stares back quietly without making a sound the entire night.