I just completed my first week at the hospital. It was filled with orientation – tours of the hospital, training on the computers and more. We received our official hospital badges, found the parking garage, and the all important cafeteria. The hospital’s mission is to make children’s lives better, and from my so far limited view of the place they are working to do that in every corner of the place.
All of the orientation is completely necessary, but I was “champing at the bit” to get up on the floors and visit children and families. Towards the end of the week I was invited to “shadow” a couple of chaplains as they visited patients and was not disappointed. Those moments in the rooms were sacred as we interacted with both the children and parents. Imagine my excitement when one Mom asked about Godly Play. She had seen the Godly Play Room on her way to the cafeteria and wondered what that was all about. The chaplain offered to stop by the next day with a story.
I went with the chaplain the next day and was thrilled to watch the Parable of the Good Shepherd come out of the box and get spread out on the child’s bed. I watched as she was slowly drawn into the story. “Why are they leaving their home?” she said. “Why are they in the dangerous place?” But then she watched with peace on her face as the Good Shepherd came and made sure they all got safely back home.
We wondered with her about the story, and then gave here a “paper version” of the Good Shepherd to keep. Her eyes began to shine as she opened it up (just a green file folder, with the sheepfold, the water, and dangerous places glued on the appropriate spots – and an envelope with all the figures needed to tell the story). She said, “I have sheep!” I wonder who she will share the story with next? She didn’t pull out the wolf while we were there, but this child knows about the wolf. I mean she really knows. I wonder how she might play with the wolf?
It was hard to walk away from her. As a Mom I felt my maternal instinct kick in powerfully, not just with her but with the others we met. I even found it hard to leave at the end of the day, fighting the urge to run back up the floor see how they were all doing. A lot of the children in the hospital are very sick. Many will go home, thankfully, but some will not. I pray I can be a conduit of God’s peace for each one, as well as their parents, during this time – that they will feel the presence not just of me but of the Good Shepherd himself while they walk through these days.
Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom: I commend to your loving care these children. Relieve their pain, guard them from all danger, restore to each one the gifts of gladness and strength. In your name we pray. Amen. — BCP, p. 459