A lot has changed this past week or so. The world looks so different in so many ways due to the COVID-19 outbreak. In that time I have felt the need to share something… to do something… something to contribute to the cause. One of the agencies I serve asked me to write something for the department newsletter that would be relevant to the challenges we are all currently facing. And now I have the opportunity to share this small message (and a bit more as you’ll see). Hopefully these words can be of use to you, personally and professionally, as you carry out your critical and challenging responsibilities.
The virus we are all facing is highly contagious. What is also highly contagious, is how we behave. Yesterday my wife, who works with special needs school kids, got a text from one of her co-workers who was extremely frustrated with their current challenges. She texted: “All these anxious people are making me crazy anxious!” As a chaplain, whose job is to provide spiritual care and support to those in need, I’ve adopted a practice that I have found to be quite helpful in most all of life’s challenging circumstances. My goal is to be a calm, caring, presence as often as possible, wherever and whenever I can. I have found that simply being calm, caring, and present… can be just as infectious as being anxious, angry and absent.
As I said, I wanted this to be a small message. So I’ll end with this. Try and take some time today, take some quiet time, to sit and reflect on what it means to you, to be a calm… caring… presence… It’s not an easy task. But if we can all get a little better at being infectious with the good stuff, the world can be a much better place in these challenging times.
With Care, Chaplain Dan
*If you would like to go deeper in the conversation above, I invite you to visit my website at: www.publicsafetyministries.org.
And now the bit more I promised…
Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time sharing my ideas on Police, Fire, and EMS Chaplaincy to clergy who were looking for ways to serve the public safety professionals of their communities. One of the ideas I always shared, was something one of my mentors (I believe it was Rev.Dr.Jeff Stewart, but it was almost a decade and a half ago:-) said to me early on: “Our responsibility as chaplains is to always be a calm, non-anxious, presence to those we serve.” Clearly the words I use are based on the ideas of the original words. So to provide the deeper conversation I referred to in the above invitation, I’d like to share a few thoughts on those words… calm, care, presence.
Calm: I consider calm to be a word that is the opposite of words like anxious and chaos. I also consider it to be a word that is the same as the word peace. In the pursuit of being calm, especially considering the circumstance we work in, we need to externally act calm even when we might not be. (consider the duck metaphor… calm above the water, paddle like crazy below). Also I think it is important to consider how important the word peace is, in our professions, particularly police. In Minnesota, we are not licensed police or law enforcement officers. We are licensed peace officers. Or now, aka: Calm Officers, with a mission to Keep the Calm.
Care: This is probably the most important word in my professional and personal life. I’m bringing this small story up to to a medium size here, but doing it justice in my world, the story would need to become 3XL. So the medium version is, I use the word care as a substitute for the word love. Specifically in the phrase that my ministry mission is founded on:”Love (care about) God and love (care about) your neighbor as yourself.” Love can be a very challenging and big word with many applications. I use care a lot as a smaller, cleaner, gateway word to exploring what love is, in our context as care providers. (The same can be said for the word service)
Presence: This is a word that is critical to or situations now of social distancing, separation, quarantines, isolation… But there are many ways to be present in peoples lives other than through a physical presence. Many of us who are isolating and working from home, are actively being present in the lives of others remotely and electronically. I personally have people who are actively in my life that have died. But spiritually I still feel very close to them. I’d be curious to hear what others have to say about how they are staying connected. A nice term I heard today was physical distancing rather than social distancing. A small thing, but I think it’s a good, clean, smaller way to express the idea of being smart in this very contagious time.
Well, I think that’s enough for now. And let’s all try to actively be calm, caring, and present, in all of our communities… professionally and personally.
With Care, Chaplain Dan