It's been a tough month at work - a tough few months, really. Lots of complicated social situations. Lots of sad stories. Lots of heavy loads to help people carry...
There's an ongoing situation right now that eats away at me. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. I'm mostly able to leave it behind when the work day is over, but sometimes it takes the whole walk home to fully shake it. And of course, it's always waiting for me when I return to work in the morning.
I knew that I'd have a day that centered mostly around this situation when I headed to work yesterday morning. I had checked email throughout the weekend and was aware that there had been some issues that would need to be addressed when I returned. I got to work, took a deep breath and plunged right in.
The "water" was deep, and the situation upsetting. I met with one person, I met with another, I organized a meeting of the care team, and then I documented in multiple places the plan to move forward. I stayed an hour late to finish all of this and was exhausted by the time I began my walk home.
It was a full-body exhaustion: physical, mental, and emotional. As I turned down my street, I was mentally preparing to leave the day behind when I walked through my front door. I spent the last few blocks taking some deep breaths in an attempt to let go of the day, but it was still hanging on.
Two blocks from home, I looked up and saw a few adults in their early 20s walking towards me.
"Excuse me," one girl said, "Do you have a second?"
"I might," I responded cautiously.
"It's not for anything weird... I mean... Well, we're with the ______ Church and I'm wondering if there's anyone you'd like us to pray for - maybe for you or for someone you know who is having a hard time?" She and her friend both smiled and looked at me kindly. "My name is Meredith," she said.
I'm of the belief that given the line of work I'm in and the challenges I so often witness there, I'm in no position to turn down prayer. Whether it be to a Christian, Jewish, or Muslim God, whether the god be male or female or gender neutral, if someone offers to pray for me or the families I work with, I won't say no.
So I thought for a moment, wanting so much to request a prayer for this family that is causing me so much heartache but not wanting to violate any HIPAA regulations. "Could you pray for the families at my hospital?" I asked. I told her where I worked and the population I serve, and tears came to her eyes.
She asked if she could put her hand on my arm, and when I said yes she began to pray.
I don't remember all the words of her prayer, but I do remember how kind and earnest she was. It wasn't a cookie-cutter prayer. She said "um" and "uh" as she strung together her thoughts into words. But her simple, honest prayer carried a surprising depth and weight. She praised her God for wisdom and love, and acknowledged that God's heart can break just as ours can. She asked for strength and peace for the families in the hospital. And she asked for strength and peace for me.
She finished her prayer and I thanked her. We chatted for a bit and then parted ways.
I walked home feeling lighter, less anxious, and relieved. Relieved in the realization that I am not carrying these burdens alone. Relieved at the idea that there might be some larger power that will help me through these difficult days - if not by solving the complex social problems I witness at work, at least by sending people like Meredith to pray for me when I need it most.