What was I to do?
I just finished my doctorate and was fluent in Hebrew and could read Greek. Necessity had me accepting a position as chaplain for about 300 persons, 80% of whom could not talk at all. God has this great sense of humor.
What was I to do?
Thankfully, every new employee went through pretty extensive training. However, NONE of it had anything to do with Spirituality. The last day of training I felt totally lost. One of the psychologists caught my frustration and asked if the classes were helpful. “Yes and no.” He smiled and said, “Just preach to them but don’t use words!” “Seriously?”
I certainly didn’t intend to preach to them at all! I knew that instinctively.
It is a long story how we learned together. It is a story for another time. Today, I hope you enjoy one short story about Francine who found her voice through art and insisting she be heard.
A Moment in Time
Francine* created a collage and was pleased when finished. She tried to tell me, but became distressed when I did not understand.
First she rocked her arms as one would do if cradling a baby.
“A baby?” I asked.
Francine shook her head decidedly but was not finished. She wanted me to say more.
I looked at the collage. I tried many guesses and with each guess she became more agitated.
“A baby in the trees?” I asked.
“No…no…no…no” Francine shook her head.
Finally in exasperation she said something like, “Baaaaaa gone.”
Then I got it.
I had been using art to communicate with all the people and often would tell stories as we worked together. A few weeks before I had told the story of the lost sheep as I carded wool for one of their projects.
“Lost lamb?” I asked.
She smiled broadly and put both arms on my shoulders shaking her head in the affirmative.
Francine went back to work and then lost interest in communicating anymore with me.
Several days later I asked her about her collage. She was done with it and wanted it no more.
This moment in time, convinced me that each person in that facility, no matter their disability, had a right to a spirituality. It was going to be my privilege to help them find it, and/or find their voice whether it was a silent voice, or had sound.
In God’s good time and with an infinite sense of humor God smiled in the end. I could almost hear God whisper, “It does take you awhile to catch on, doesn’t it?” I thought I was going into this facility to help them find their voice. What really happened was I found mine.
Pat Pickett, OblSB
Top: Lost Sheep collage. Taken by PJP.
Bottom: Artist of Lost Sheep college. Taken by PJP.