9:30 am. Just finished on the telephone with my spiritual coach in California. We spent an hour reviewing my recent activities around grieving and serving. I reported on that continuing concern over the end of hospice work and the transition into other helping work. As you may recall, during the 18 months of hospice work I’d discovered an immense capacity for compassion and, since leaving, have felt (at) a loss.
At a loss how, exactly? my coach asked. The loss of the recognition of being “good;” the acknowledgment by coworkers, patients, and their families that I was making a difference; the myriad opportunities to be of service. And now, what’s happening in your new volunteer jobs? When I go to as a spiritual care volunteer on the renal (kidney) unit, my role is very minor, the nurses don’t know me and are too busy to worry about a volunteer, the patients are either sleeping, away for treatment, or don’t want to see a visitor. Put simply, I feel superfluous, unrecognized, not needed.
Our conversation went on to explore some of the ways I’ve been of service in small and unrecognized ways. In another volunteer job, for instance, my assignment is to take a cart around to people waiting for cancer treatment and to offer tea, coffee, and juices. Would you like a cookie with that? Doesn’t get much less glamorous, less ordinary. And yet, and yet … opportunities abound to offer a gentle touch, a smile, and a helping gesture.
My task for today is to observe (and value) the many ways I/we bring extraordinary attention (compassion, love, kindness) to ordinary people in ordinary situations. A stanza in David Whyte’s poem expresses this very nicely:
You must go to the place
where everything waits,
there, when you finally rest,
even one word will do,
one word or the palm of your hand
in the gesture of gift.