What I learned from visiting just one patient today.
Visiting just one patient wasn’t why I went to the hospital this afternoon. I went to visit six patients.
It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time to visit six patients today, although sometimes situations arise where I can’t visit everyone on my list. But today wasn’t one of those days.
Today only one patient was available. The patients in the first two rooms had been released. The third person on the list was out of the room for a procedure. The fourth patient’s room was also vacant. I did get to say “Hi” to the fifth patient as he was being wheeled away for a test.
When I reached the sixth room, the patient was in! In fact, she, her husband, her son, and the nurse were apparently having a conversation about chaplains coming to visit. As I introduced myself, the nurse said, “See, I told you that we have people from all different groups that come!” I came as a representative of their faith tradition, and for many of us, that’s like having family show up. It was for them. It seemed like they had just been waiting my arrival.
As I got to know a little about them, the husband reached over and picked up a Bible. He wanted me to read the handwritten inscription signed by the elders of their home congregation. It was a message of honor and belonging. We talked about prayer, about moving from hopelessness by the physicians over her condition to hope that led to surgery with a hopeful report. We talked about the importance of faith in times like this. And we prayed about what was on her heart — getting well enough to be with family and church. Even so, it was a short visit — maybe 10 minutes total.
Later I was talking to a colleague who is much more experienced in hospital visitation than I, and he remarked about how unusual my day had been.
The day was unusual enough that I spent a little time reflecting on what I should take away from it. I decided it’s really just one thing. Numbers don’t matter. But being there to represent God and church does matter. A lot.