I smiled. I was respectful and polite. I even took the classes and became a certified Nursing Assistant. The nursing home was run by a plump scary RN who had hired me because I had a nice smile. But behind the smile I was young and insecure, and stressed by the schedule that demanded waking, dressing, and getting up into chairs what were too many people in too little time … and all before breakfast.
I knew all the details of the care I must give — the stuff to be done, of which all was not pleasant. I knew how to make a bed just right, even with a person in it, and how to do something called mitering the sheets — a special folding back of the ends that kept them snugly under the mattress. I still do this today with my own sheets.
Yes, some time ago, in what now seems like another life — I worked as a care giver in a nursing home.
I still know the proper way to help a bed-ridden person into a sitting position or a wheelchair. But I know something just as important that I didn’t understand then. It’s about more than doing the right things in the right way. It’s about more than being nice. It’s even about more than caring.
As a care giver or as a visitor who wants to do and say the right things — the most important thing you can bring to a visit with a resident, a loved one, or even a casual acquaintance in a nursing home or other kind of care center … is yourself … your authentic self. And when that happens … and you feel it … I call it a God Thing.
Now much older and finally more self-confident, I pull into the parking lot of the local care facility and walk the few steps to the door. I know how to push the metal box that lets visitors in while keeping the residents safe within. I sign my name, time, and write the name of whom I plan to visit. I put on the Visitor tag. I know the routine … the stuff to be done. But it’s still about more than doing the right things in the right way.
This day I have come with a bit of trepidation, not knowing exactly what I might say or do, and praying that I will know how to communicate. I know that it is about more than a planned Scripture verse or a pre-rehearsed prayer. And I know that it’s about more than my own fears or discomfort. It’s about being able to put that all aside and trusting the Holy Spirit for the words. And that is my prayer.
I am approaching the room … or maybe the wheelchair in the hallway … and I am suddenly relaxed, and a peace has come upon me. This is not just a person in a bed or a wheelchair, one happy to chat or unable to. This is not only a person whose mind may be far away or sharp as a tack, good humored or in pain both physical or emotional, seemingly unresponsive or welcoming. This is a child of God, like me, and in this we are truly who we are. This is what it’s really about.
I feel the Presence of God. I feel God working through me. And I feel Joy.