Saturday, September 27, 2014

Not judge…to NOT judge…THAT can be the hardest part of all.

It was the late shift in the Emergency Room on a Saturday night …anybody who’s had to be treated in the E.R. on a Saturday night knows it can be a little crazy; anybody who’s had to work there on a Saturday night has to BE a little crazy. It’s pretty steady through the early evening, and then it’s like a bus arrives around 10 p.m., and it takes about 4 hours to clear it out…and then the 2 a.m. bus arrives…and it’s the 2 a.m. bus that really tests your skill; and your patience; and your kindness…yeah, your kindness…that special kindness that helps you to listen, to evaluate, to discern, to share, to counsel…and to not judge…to NOT judge…and THAT can be the hardest part of all.

It was three patients…back to back to back…that challenged…and taught…the young physician whose 24 hour shift would end at 6 a.m. the most valuable of lessons.

The first was a middle-aged slightly overweight but basically healthy guy at his 30th high school reunion who developed chest pain and some shortness of breath in the middle of a push-up contest with his former football teammates. “I can’t believe this! I used to be able to do a hundred push-ups without breaking a sweat…I guess I’m a little out of shape…” he said. While the doc was waiting for the lab results, the second patient arrived.

She was a thin girl brought in by a friend who was concerned. The girl was well-dressed and quite attractive…except for the two swollen black eyes, the nose that sort of laid over a little on her right cheek, and the busted lip. “I fell down the stairs…” she said. Her friend said “…he beat you up…again.” The girl cried and said “He’s a great guy…he only does this when he’s been drinking.” The young doc asked her, almost embarrassed, “How much does he drink?” She replied “A lot…all the time.” He asked her “Did he do anything else to you?” She simply turned towards the wall and sobbed. She was sent for x-rays, and the domestic abuse counselor was called.

By now the labs were back on the push-up champ, and he hadn’t had a heart attack. The doc sat down with him, looked him in the eye, and said, as kindly as he could “George, you have to start taking better care of yourself. You’re not 18 anymore; your blood pressure is up and so is your cholesterol. You need to change what you are doing…now. Eat better, lose some weight, get some regular, reasonable exercise…at the next reunion, you’ll leave them all in the dust!” Crest-fallen, the man agreed…he knew what he had to do, and was determined. “Thanks doc; I was really scared, ya’ know?”

The young girl’s x-rays showed a fracture of the nose, and as they were repairing her lip the doctor, the friend and the counselor all told her that she couldn’t go back to him; that this was going to happen over and over; that he needed help she couldn’t give him; and that there was a place she could live that was safe until he got some help. She said “I just can’t live like this anymore…” and she agreed to a safe house. And then, just as things were starting to settle down, the police arrived…two squad cars.

Two officers ran in and said “We’re gonna’ need some help.” The E.R. team grabbed a gurney and headed out the door. Two other officers were wrestling a man…a large, strong man…out of the back seat…the one with the bars and the thick metal mesh. He was homeless and had barged into an apartment at a housing complex, wild-eyed, and assaulted the occupants, claiming they were possessed. It took six people to get him secured on the gurney, and the whole time he was flailing, mumbling about the aliens and the weird electrical rays they were pumping into his head. In addition to four police officers and two squad cars, this one also required sedation, a drug counsellor, a psychiatric case worker, and the case worker on call for Catholic Charities. After a short stay in the detox unit, he had a place to stay and a plan for treatment.

Today’s Gospel outlines Jesus’ teaching, his rules of engagement, concerning our interaction with our brothers and sisters when they are in trouble…and their interaction with us when we are. In psychological terms, this is what is referred to as an intervention. You may have seen one or two on Dr. Phil, or one of the reality television programs…you may have also been a part of one for a family member. The secular versions are not pretty, but even those can be pretty effective. They just aren’t complete.

What happened in the E.R. on that Saturday night is at least a dim reflection of what can happen when we abandon ourselves…go out on that limb…for each other. It’s what can happen when we reach out and embrace each other’s woundedness and brokenness. The beauty in what Jesus teaches is that our interventions should always take place within a framework that includes an understanding of sin, repentance, forgiveness, and the Church family. Look, our Church family is just as dysfunctional as any of our nuclear and extended families are, and what we all have to understand is that Jesus suffered and died to save us from our dysfunctionality. The next time one of our brothers or sisters sins against us, take a moment to recall what Jesus did for us, and what he wants from us in return: that special kindness that helps us to listen, to evaluate, to discern, to share, to counsel…and to not judge…to NOT judge…and THAT can be the hardest part of all.
Post by Deacon Bill Whibbs.

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ez 33: 7-9, Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 8-9, Rom 13: 8-10, Mt 18: 15-20