Category Archives: Stories

“…to do it right.”

I got a text from a friend yesterday morning.  It was an update on a friend of his who had just passed away.  He had been walking with his friend through his illness and impending death.  I felt a wave of sadness as the text led with the notice of the death.  But the short text concluded with Confident on his eternity. Diagnosed 4 years ago, he took the time to do it right :-)”.  The text made me smile, and left me with a real sense of peace.  A peace for my friend and for his friend as well.

So often we are faced with the anxiety, stress and worry of the challenges of daily life.  In those times I wonder what would happen if we paused and took the time to ask ourselves: “Am I doing it right?”  Things can get pretty complicated when digging into the question of “doing it right”.  But that’s not the real question we should be asking.  As the simple text states, it’s not about doing it right, it’s about taking the time.  If we look back on life to when we took the time, we’d see that we were probably at our best, doing life right!

Take Care, Pr. Dan

A Prayer… (for a guy who recently got older)

I am on the receiving end of several daily, weekly, and monthly email devotional and spiritual messages.  These regular messages are a great resource of stories that are the foundation of my ministry work.  I received one such message recently that I’d like to dedicate to a guy who recently hit another annual life landmark.  It comes from a group that I’d gladly give credit, but since I’m doing this without permission, I’m not sure they’d want responsibility.  I’m not sure who wrote it, I’d give credit if I knew, but rest assured I didn’t (although I wish I had).  Needless to say, prayers are good and this one is worth repeating, especially for that guy I mentioned above.  I hope he reads it and learns from it!

A PRAYER FOR THOSE GROWING OLDER

Lord, Thou knowest that I am growing older.
Keep me from becoming talkative and possessed with the idea that I must express myself on every subject.
Release me from the craving to straighten out
everyone’s affairs.
Keep me from the recital of endless detail.
Give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips when I am inclined to tell of my aches and pains; they are increasing with the years and my love to speak of them grows sweeter as time goes by.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally
I may be wrong.
Make me thoughtful but not nosy; helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom and experience it does seem a pity not to use it all. But Thou knowest, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.

Take Care, Pastor Dan

(Oh, and by the way, Happy Birthday… to ME! I especially like the “Give me wings…” verse!)

A Message From a Colleague

Public Safety Ministries has a mission to provide and promote Spiritual Health and Fitness in all public safety professions; Law Enforcement, Fire Service, Emergency Medical Service and Military.  Having spent the last 30 years working in Law Enforcement, my focus obviously has been directed at that discipline.  However, the issues and challenges we face are  clearly universal to all these professions.  With permission, below I share a message that was written by a colleague who works as a full time chaplain serving those in the EMS profession.  It contains some of the “universal truths” that I often speak of that impact those of us whose lives are embedded in the “human condition”.

Enjoy!

 

“Growing Into Your Profession”

by Russ Myers, Allina Medical Transportation Chaplain

Cumulative stress, critical incidents, and the emotional weight of our work are familiar to all of us whose jobs involve caring for people in crisis.  We know how important it is to be intentional about taking care of ourselves and keeping our lives in balance.

So it may come as a surprise when we begin to notice that we’re not bothered as much by difficult cases as we used to be.   We may wonder, “am I getting cold and calloused?”  A fire fighter EMT spoke about having clear memories of a call he was on more than a dozen years ago, while the details of a more recent, equally challenging call were not so clear.  He asked, “should I be concerned?”  Others have made similar comments, and asked the same questions.

A family member of a patient who was coding in the ICU at United Hospital noticed that I was able to be with his loved one without appearing to be in much distress myself.  He commented, “I suppose this kind of work gets easier over time.”  Easier?  No, I told him, it doesn’t get easier, but it does get more familiar.

In response to these conversations, I dug a little deeper into it this year.  One of the things I’ve come to recognize is that our responses to critical incidents involve more than one emotion.  A normal response to loss is to feel grief or sadness.  A typical response to trauma is to be frightened.  With experience, the “fear factor” is less than it used to be.  Situations that used to scare me aren’t so scary any more.  I still experience some initial anxiety as I make the mental shift necessary to respond to a crisis.  I notice a heightened sense of awareness, faster heartbeat and other physical responses, but I’m not as frightened.

I believe that, with experience and support from co-workers, family and friends, we can increase our skill at coping with stress and trauma.  The fear element is reduced.  We have a broader base of experience to draw on, and even though the current situation isn’t exactly the same as something we’ve seen before, we gain confidence in our abilities.  It’s not easier, but it is more familiar.

Should you be concerned if you don’t get overwhelmed by a challenging call?   I don’t know.  One way to explore it is to ask, do you experience normal emotional responses in other areas of your life?  Do you tear up at sad movies, laugh, cry, and care for your loved ones in appropriate ways?  If yes, this is healthy and you’re probably doing OK.

Others may interpret our lack of fear as meaning that our jobs get easier over time. We may still be sad, but not afraid.  If you notice that you’re able to be in the midst of a very tough situation without feeling overwhelmed, take it as a clue that you’re growing into your profession.  There will be times when your ability to cope gets stretched, and I encourage you to take advantage of support resources and critical incident debriefings.  But there will be other times when you recognize that you do feel sad about the situation, but it’s within the scope of your normal work, and you’re going to be OK.

Russ

Russ Myers, D.Min., BCC, is chaplain at United Hospital and Allina Medical Transportation in St. Paul, Minnesota. In his work with Emergency Medical Services he provides staff support to EMTs and paramedics.

In The News… A Little Deeper…

I like reading the paper.  It’s part of my morning ritual, right there with having my morning coffee and doing dog chores.  My wife and I have a routine when we read the paper, not a routine as much as a system.  I usually get up a little earlier than she does, but by the time I start the coffee, go out and do dog chores, and hike out to the street (not really a hike, more of a 100 yard jaunt) to get the paper, she is up and enjoying her first cup before heading off to work.  Therefore, we read it at the same time and need a system in who reads what section when.  Today was no different, she starts with the front page section and I get the local… and so on.

So how is this relevant to spiritual fitness and my ministry work?  Well today we were a little off sync.  When that happens I go to the Sports section, which she doesn’t read, and I usually just skim.  Except on days like today when I have some “paper time” to kill.  So I read with a little more depth.  And here lays (or is it “lies”) the message.  When you go a little deeper, a little more deliberately into whatever it is you are doing, sometimes you uncover something that brings you some joy and happiness.  In this case it was a really nice memory.

I was reading about Jim Thome and where he will end up playing next year.  (For those who don’t know, he’s a great baseball player who spent last year with the Twins.)  Towards the end of the article by Joe Christensen there was the following paragraph:

“The biggest home run of the Twins season came Aug. 17, when Thome hit a two-run, lead-changing, game-ending blast off White Sox lefthander Matt Thornton.”

Minneapolis StarTribune 12/03/10, Photo by Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune.

And we were there!  All five of us!  Me, my wife, my 24 year old from Alaska, my 21 year old form Minneapolis and my 14 year old still living at home.  We were all there on a beautiful summer night, extra innings, outdoor baseball, and a walk-off homer that landed about 20 feet from where we sat in the right field bleachers!  It really was a great night together.

Now, I hadn’t thought about that night for quite some time.  It was a great memory, but we get busy and our lives get cluttered and we tend to forget all the good stuff that we experience, the stuff that feeds our souls with happiness and joy.  The stuff that keeps us spiritually fit.  But this morning, by going a little deeper into our simple routines of life, my soul was fed and I’m a little healthier today because of it.  (And I hope Thome comes back again next year!)

Take Care!

Making It Visible

As I’ve traveled down the road of career transition these past two years, the one thing that has been constant throughout the journey is the experience of discovery.  I had the opportunity last week to share the mission and vision of Public Safety Ministries with the Ramsey County Chiefs of Police Association at their monthly meeting.  It was a great experience and I was overwhelmed with the response of support I received from them.  I gave an overview of the ministry, the mission, the outreach and the services projects we are involved in.  As I was talking about the Chaplaincy Services Coordination project that I am working on in partnership with The Minneapolis Police Chaplain Corp and The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, I used an image to describe the project that I had never used before.

The day before the presentation I was reading for a book that I received from one of our police chaplains, Father Tim Power, at my retirement from Eden Prairie PD.  My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. holds a regular place in my collection of books I use for meditation and devotional reading.

In one of the stories she shares she tells of how she struggled with an assignment she had where she was supposed to “build community” among the employees of a hospice organization.  They set aside one morning of a retreat to accomplish the task. When she sought out advice from a colleague she was give the following advice: “You don’t need to make that happen (building the community), Rachael.  You just need to make it visible.”

As I described the efforts we have made towards identifying and coordination chaplain services around the state I have found the same thing to be true.  We don’t need to create a chaplain services community, we just need to make the existing one visible.  Of course there is a lot of other work to do as we strive towards building continuity of services, standards and identities and professionals in police chaplaincy, but the community is there and it is active.  Making it visible, first to ourselves and then to others is a great first step.

There always seems to be plenty of visibility in our society of the problems and challenges we face.  A simple story in a book has given me an image, an image of making visible all that is good in life, that will become a guiding light of this ministry.

Take Care.